Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Princess and the Frog


Okay, she's NOT a Princess. Let's just get that out of the way. She is an ordinary girl, the daughter of a seamstress and her fathers dies when she is young. She is the good friend of a white girl who happens to be RICH and somewhat spoiled but not ever racist. Even in the 20s, imagine that! (good for you, Disney!)

Her dream is, through hard work and determination, to open her own restaurant. It was her father's dream and she's gonna do it, by golly wow. But she isn't gonna kiss any frogs!

Her good friend, the rich white girl, just wants what she wants and one of those things is to live the life she has been taught, which is to marry a Prince and your life will be wonderful and if she has to kiss a frog to get that Prince, small price, no worries.

Enter the Prince, the small cast of evil characters, the odd side-kicks and throw in a lot of voodoo and gris-gris and songs by Randy Newman and you've got a film that rocks along. The animation was good, not great! There were a few spots where I wondered if they were cutting corners or financing because the drawing just seemed so spare, compared to some of the other longer parts of the film. Especially the song in the bayou (my favorite part); it was beautiful.

I laughed at so much I thought I was being annoying to some people. There were great inside jokes to people from around here and apart from stereotyping in the first 5 minutes, I relaxed and just went with it.

Here is a great scene with one of the more fun characters, an alligator who just wants to play trumpet with the humans! Is that so much to ask?

Okay, one more with Ray

I so want to work this phrase into a conversation: It's not slime; it's MUCUS!

I Have a Love-Hate Relationship

with Walt Disney.

I love animation and art. I can't get enough and no, I never wanted to work for the Disney Art Studio. If I lived anywhere near Orlando, I would have applied to work as one of the grounds-keepers. They are the ones who make the place amazing but I really think instead that the Disneylands and Disneyworlds are a huge waste of resources and belch more garbage into the world than anything the visitors get "out of the experience". So therein lies the rub.... would I want to work somewhere that I think is more of a cause of problems than a help to society?
(I have often wondered why the environmentalists haven't targeted the Disney Enterprise. Honestly, why HAVE they gotten such a pass?)

They really employ ALOT of people (good thing) and they entertain the masses (good thing) but they create the world of illusion and fantasy that people escape into (bad) and such a pile of waste (very bad).

If you have ever been to one of the parks, you know exactly what I mean. People travel for MILES to get to the PARKING LOT and then take a tram to the edge of the park, and boat to the entrance and then finally get in the darned park and then stand in endless lines with air-conditioning or sprayed water to keep you somewhat comfortable and huge tv screens to keep the kids entertained while they stand like cattle in herds, to ride a ride that is using up vast amounts of energy, and then exit the ride into a place that promotes the purchase of themed items made in China that are then shipped back over here to be bought by people who spent a hour or two earning the cash it costs to pay for it, only to drag it home and sell it at a garage sale in a few years time.

But I love the Art of Disney. The history. The beauty of the backgrounds..... which brings me to this post. The New Orleans Museum of Art has an exhibit up thru March 2010 celebrating the animation of Walt Disney is conjunction with the release of the Princess and the Frog, which is set in 1920s-30s New Orleans. CAN YOU IMAGINE THE ART???????

We made yesterday into a Day of Disney which didn't pan out because by the time we got to the movie theatre, it was sold out but we're heading back this morning to watch. We got to the museum not knowing what was inside and I confess, although I am always impressed by the artistry of Disney I am ALWAYS disturbed by the salesmanship and I braced myself for a certain disappointment. I was wrong. Hurray! I was wrong!

The installation spared no expense. The artwork is of the finest order, the quantity was beyond reproach. Yes you pay to enter but you will not be left feeling gypped. You wander thru the exhibit with a audio machine that gives you background on the various displays, hosted by John Goodman who really does have a face and voice MADE for radio.

If you are anything like me, you are mesmerized by the color and texture of the backgrounds of these films and the characters sort of get in the way. I just want to shove them off the screen and wander around the sets! And here you get to do just that! And learn about the men and women who MADE this piece of our childhoods come alive. I LOVE VHS and the fact that I could watch them over and over and over with my kids........ I was never bored. I just lost myself in the art.

Eyvind Earle I can't copy the images and paste them here but if you want to click over, you won't be back for a while. Go enjoy and head over to the NOMA before the show is gone for good. It's not traveling to any other part of the USA. This is your chance and if you are a LA resident, you get in free on Thursdays, I believe. Save an hour's wage.

As for me, I had to leave the exhibit because it ended up at the Princess and the Frog and I didn't want to learn anything more about the story or ANYTHING before I had seen the film.It LOOKS like it's going to be terrific. I had to leave!!! I want to experience the "magic" before I delve into the reality. I'll let you know what I think later (not that it matters)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Boxing Day

The day after Christmas.... I hope everyone had a blessed day and a happy one. I spent the better part of the day in jim-jams so you KNOW I was happy.

I also slept past 5:00 am, past 6:00 am almost to 7:00 am and that is the best gift. Well the massage was the BEST, but the extra sleep was lagnaippe!

But Christmas Eve, oh Christmas Eve what a time it was! Smorgasbord...... glorious food and friends in a beautiful setting and completely DRENCHED in rain. Awful Awful weather and I have to brag...... THAT did NOT stop people from coming out in it to be with us and share their day with us. What an honor! What a blessing!

Every year, and this is our 4th, it gets better. We try to stay authentic to Swedish tradition but it does take on an American flavor. (I should state, a TEXAS flavor. Jan stays much truer to the Swedish) and next year we are going to step i t up and learn the songs they sing as they knock back the snapps. So far, we merely toast to everyone's health and down it goes! And down it goes indeed. Jan found Aquavit from Aquavit in New York and it was sublime.


We have kept the cold and hot foods separated this year (which I have only recently learned is a requisite to authentic Smorgasbord) and this year there was no food left.


Even the Jansson's Temptation was gone! The liquor ran out and a good friend (and his good son), who had actually come and gone to another function and RETURNED, went out on a beer run. DO we have good friends OR WHAT?

At one point, Rachel introduced us to what is surely going to be a staple: this crazy game where you get in a circle and throw a die to get 6. If you do, you jump in the center of the circle and jam a hat on your head, wrap a scarf around your throat and mittens on you hands and pick up a fork and a spoon and begin unwrapping a small "gift". You can keep up the work until someone else rolls the 6 and you must undress and let them have a go at it. Round and round it goes until the unwrapper gets to the center, which is a huge bar of chocolate and has to unwrap that and start eating. The "Winner" gets the prize!

Our winner was our vegan who could not eat the chocolate because it was Milk chocolate but she is such a good sport that she tried to spoon feed about half the chocolate to others and really, the REAL reason she won is that Rachel accidentally knelt on the die which was made of paper and squished it out of service. So the game ended on a technicality but not before I got a few shots of the madness. Here you see Katy at it, getting the hat ripped off her head and Margee with her winning bow!


We had an abundance of young people in our midst. This is one of the most surprising things about our Smorgasbord. I wish I thought to ask them to pile on the sofa earlier when there were even more Under 30s. The energy from this group is amazing..... I wish I could point them all out and tell you a little about each of them. Suffice it say, there is enough talent there to start a new colony and populate it with intelligence, humor, insight, humanity, sheer determination and education. And Internationality.


And goofiness!

All this and no one felt the need to burn a goat. Amazing how that works!


Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Best Swedish Rye Breads in the World Recipes

If you like Rye Breads and have been fortunate to eat Swedish Rye Breads (which are not at all like a good Jewish Rye Bread), you probably came across one similar to this

And because I am think everyone should bake bread at least once a year (it's therapeutic), I offer up two glorious recipes. Try either one and you will want to make the other. They are both superb.

Rye Bread (Limpa) (that means loaf. Swedish. Don't ask me)

1 Tbls Dry Active Yeast*
1 tsp Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup real Butter
2 Cups Milk
1/4 Cup Molasses
1 tsp Salt
2 tsp Aniseseed
2 tsp Fennel Seed
2 tsps Orange Peel (this is available in the spice section or just grate one you have handy. Both work well
About 4 cups flour Mix (60% plain flour and 40% stone-ground Rye)

Melt the butter in a large heavy bottom pot and add the milk. Slowly warm and add the Molasses, Anise and Fennel seeds and Orange peel.

In a small bowl, (I hold the bowl under running water to warm it) add 1/4 cup blood-warm water and Yeast and 1 tsp Brown sugar. Stir to dissolve (I always use a wooden spoon or knife) and watch it activate. If it doesn't bubble up, the yeast is old and you will not be making any bread today. Go buy more (fresh) dry yeast and try that step again. (no, adding MORE old yeast isn't going to make it work)

If you have a MixMaster or Bread maker, drag it out, use the hook attachment, (not the paddle) and let technology Work For You! You can certainly mix it all yourself and do the kneading on a floured board. It is more physical and therefore healthier for you but I find my KitchenAid is my Friend.

To the flour add the salt and give it a stir!

Pour the warmed milk/molasses/spices mix into the mixer bowl OR leave it in the pot and take the pot off the range/heat. Begin adding the flour to the bowl/pot and turn on the machine/your body and start mixing. It gets more difficult as time goes on. Add a little at a time and mix mix mix. The machine is doing the work (hopefully) all that kneading. If you are using your body, keep in mind that any spoon you use to do all that stirring in going to break under the strain so at some point, you're going to need to pour it all out onto a floured surface and keep kneading and adding the flour.

You will use ALL of the 4 cups of flour mix and quite possibly a little MORE plain flour to get the dough to the desired stage... If you are using that machine the dough will completely pull away from the walls of the bowl and be a firm, unsticky mass slapping as is goes round and round. If you still see doughy residue on the bowl walls or it keeps working it's way up the hook, scrape it down and add a little more flour and mix mix mix. Eventually, it will be one massive ball. When you press on the dough and it remains firm yet springy, you know it's ready to rest.

If you are the Machine, keep kneading all the 4 cups and possibly add more plain flour until the dough is springy, NOT sticky at all, and smooth and pliant. It really is a joy to work with your hands but it takes much more time (nothing wrong with slowing down.) Eventually it will be YOU that's ready to rest!

Place the dough back into and cover the bowl with a tea-towel and let the dough ball rest until double in bulk. This could take an hour or more.
(When I cover my doughs, I always hear my mother say, "go to sleep!"

When it's ready, punch the dough down and turn out onto a floured surface and knead for a minute. Divide into 3 equal pieces and shape into 3 long slender loaves. I use parchment paper when I bake anything, so I put a sheet on top of a cookie sheet and arrange the loaves. If your sheet is large all three will fit. I have to use two. Again, cover and let rest for approx 40 minutes. It will rise again. Now heat the oven to 375 degrees and bake for around 40 minutes. Keep an eye on things. The bread should NOT brown on top but if you turn it over, you will see the bottom browning. Give it a thump! If it sounds hollow, it's done. If not, pop it back in for another 5 minutes.

When I take out this rye bread, I cover it with the tea-towel again to let it cool down and stay moist.

Slice thinly and try not to eat the whole thing in one sitting. EXCELLENT with Jalsberg cheese.



Eric's Best Rye Bread recipe (it is famous)

1.5 bottles of Guiness Stout (drink the other half, no whining, no wasting)
1 Tbls aniseseed
2 Tbls shortening
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups flour
2 cups rye flour
2 pkg of yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
Mix Stout, anise, shortening in a saucepan, heat to luke warm
Pour in a bowl,add syrup,orange zes ,& salt, mix well
Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water with sugar and add to mixture

Add flours, beat till smooth

let rise until it doubles in size
do what you do with making a loaf, brush with water
Heat oven to 350 degrees
bake for 40-50 minutes...

Now, you might be thinking... hey where are the details!!!!???? Okay, if you do all the things I described above in my wordy wordy way, substituting the ingredients you see right there, you will end up with amazing moist delicious Rye Bread. They are similar but distinctly different which is why they are together in this post.



*(Which brings me to a minor gripe. Not a full out vent but why can we not find fresh yeast any longer? The dry yeast works fine, yeahyeahyeah but I have recipes that call for fresh wet yeast; doing the conversions can be a chore)(a real grind)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It Really Burns Me Up

and by that I mean, pyromaniacs really burn me up. I mentioned yesterday the Gavle Julbock, the enormous Christmas Goat in Sweden that is built each year and wackos try to burn it before Christmas. It's like some really dumb act of bravery/stupidity/drunkedness on some moron's part.

Well they did it again!

I hope you had a chance to click over and see how beautiful he was, covered in snow and surrounded by that running fence. His horns were lit by white lights and he was really lovely.

Jackasses. This is what is left.

Up-date: This is what he looked like yesterday.

Smorgasbord Eve

Which means it's time to cook!

Jansson's Temptation

One of my all-time favorite dishes ever. If I were on Death Row, this would be my last meal request and I'd want to be the one to make it.

When I was growing up, our wimmen-folk belonged to the Linneas of Texas, a club for Swedish women and those who were fortunate enough to be married to Swedish men and wanted to get in on the action. Once a year, they hosted a Smorgasbord in Houston as a fund-raiser and we all helped out in the preparations and at the actual dinner. It was really a Brunch, in my memory and I think they held it on a Sunday after church. I just remember it was mostly elderly couples dressed nicely and very polite. I would wander around serving coffee and iced tea.

The week BEFORE was spent in preparations and here is where I really come in. I was in charge of peeling and slicing mountains of potatoes. At the time, I did this job exceedingly well, because I owned it. Now I realize others must have thought me really slow-witted because who in the clear mind would DO that for hours. We made VATS of the stuff! This means one whole heck-of-a-lot of potatoes. But I loved it. I loved being a part of this.

So, with no further ado (well.... maybe a few side-tracks), please follow me down memory lane. If you make this dish, you will thank me.

First take 3 medium-large yellow onions, peel the outer skin. cut in half and slice into slender semi-circles. You don't want to chop or mince these onions. In a large skillet, melt 3 Tablespoons of real butter, I use unsalted, on a low heat. This is going to take time, so don't rush it. In Louisiana, we call this sweating the onions. Cook them slowly, so slowly because you don't want that heat to burn the butter! The onions take a while to wilt but then start to take on a beautiful golden color and become transluscent. Eventually they will start to brownish. At this point you take them off the heat. They are just shy of carmelized, got it?


Now while all that is going on and you keep your eye on it! you can start with the potatoes. I use the Idahos that come in 5 lb bags. Not the HUGE baking size and not too small because you'll be peeling forever. For this batch, I used 8 large potatoes, peeled. Now quarter them and slice the first quarter very finely in one direction and turn that on it's side and slice them into slender shoestrings. Repeat with the other 3 quarters and then repeat with the other 7 potatoes.

Hate me yet?


As you do this slicing, dump them into a large pot of cold water. You want them to stay covered at all times. You may notice the water turn pinkish. Sometimes this happens. No worries. Now after you finish all the potatoes, rinse off the water and cover them again.


If you live in a city with an IKEA (lucky duck) you can get these anchovies: ABBAs.


If you have friends who love you and live near an IKEA, you can ask them to get you some. If both these options are out of the question, you can do what I have done for years, use Moroccan or Portugese anchovies. Buy Reese's Anchovy Fillets. Now, any self-respecting Swede would say this doesn't taste as good and they may be right but hey, I'm a hick and I'll take what I can get if it means Jansson's Temptation.

(Aside: When we moved to Brunei our second year abroad, I said, let's meet the neighbors and have a Smorsgasbord! And off I went in search of ingredients to make as close as possible a Swedish Christmas. John came home for lunch to find me in tears, trying desperately to fillet anchovies. I had never seen any other tin but ABBAs anchovies so when opened the tin from China and found they had bones, I set about filleting fish the size of little pinkies. I was in misery. I learned YEARS later that anchovy fillets still had bones and were totally edible. Who knew?)

Okay, you have your potatoes, sauted onions and anchovies. DON'T throw out the broth! Even if it's anchovies packed in oil (the ABBAs anchovies are packed in broth, not oil. BETTER!!!!) You'll need it later. How much anchovies? Well if you LOVE them, use three cans. Since I am making this for a crowd who may not be wild about anchovies, but curious, I have limited it to 2 tins of ABBAs. (that would be 3 tins of Reese's)

In a buttered casserole (I use a 5 quart Corningware square) begin layering first with potatoes, then a smattering of onions, then 4 or 5 anchovy fillets, Sprinkle a little pepper and (if you must) a tiny tiny amount of salt or NONE at all.


Remember anchovies are salty and you don't want to be eating mouthfuls of ocean. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. These are really thin layers. End with a layer of potatoes. remember the broth? Pour that broth over the layers, all of it. If you uses oil-packed anchovies, use ONLY one tin's worth. Too oily otherwise.

Sprinkle with pepper. Have you resisted using salt? GOOD! Now you may sprinkle the tiniest amount, really... just a smininch*. Trust me! Later you if MUST, you can add to your helping but some of us can't take a lot of salt.

Now if I were a REAL Swede, I would use only heavy cream.

But I use both heavy cream and Half and Half. Half and Half and Half. Drizzle the cream over the potatoes, only to the point that you begin to see it rise up the edge of the casserole.


You don't want much more than about half the casserole because as the potatoes cook and soften, they will settle down and the cream will rise. You aren't making a soup. That cream will thicken and you will end up with a creamy, rich sauce.

Cover the dish and bake at 350 degrees for an hour or so. Check it and see what I mean about settling 30 minutes into the baking. If you think you need more cream, you can add it now. If you are going to serve it now, uncover the dish and allow the potatoes to brown. However!

This really benefits from making a day ahead and resting refrigerated and reheated. The cream thickens and when it's served, is stayed more together. But I confess, I have a very difficult time waiting 24 hours. In this case, I have no choice. I'm bringing it to the Smorgasbord tomorrow.


So when I reheat it, it will brown at that time. Heat it covered thoroughly and remove the cover before serving to allow it brown. This way, you never have to worry about burning it!

Okay now I am off to bake the Limpa!

*what's a smininch? More than a pinch, less than a smidge.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Week is Upon Us

And because it is rapidly approaching, I have been BDOT besides blogposting about chickens. But today I will do a little catch-up for those interested. C'mon, who's not interested in chicken-happenings!

But first, yesterday Ubergeeks Mom and I made dozens of tamales. This is a tradition John brought to me as his family ate them on Christmas Eve down in Corpus Christi. I love me a good tamale and immediately embraced that tradition for us even though there have been years where the Swedish food was served on the Eve and the Tamale Night was Christmas Day. It always worked out and on some occasions, like when we lived in Valdez, I actually made the tamales myself because buying them was not always an option.

Last year, I found this extraordinary website with explicit instructions on tamale making. If you go there and FOLLOW the INSTRUCTIONS you will make the best tamales in the world. And you will make A LOT of the best tamales in the world. If you don't make them, you can always try to scriggle your way to our table on Christmas DAY this year and try one for yourself.

Another tradition we have been keeping these past, now FOUR, years has been to co-host a Swedish Yule Smorgasbord. We alternate locations and this year it will be again at Jan's in Covington who, like me, is a Swede-by-Proxy. We embrace our inner-Swede and channel this into our daughters at every opportunity (WTLION).

It has all the trappings of the Old Country, right down to the wheat julbock, which we DO NOT BURN! Sorry! If you want to know more about that, you must go here to read a funny personal story. It didn't happen to ME, but the humor has stayed with me since I first read this.

So beginning tomorrow, I will attempt to hold up my end of the festivities by baking Limpa and preparing the dough for peparkakkar and the cabbage and beans. No I don't mix the cabbage with the beans and no, this year the beans will NOT be the Swedish, sweetish version of beans but the TEXAS pinto bean variety. Again, sorry. It isn't about dissing the Swedes as much as we here in the South simply cannot get past the sugar in the beans. Well to be accurate, the vinegary/molasses sweet taste of the beans. WE eat savory beans in the South and I can't stand making a pot of beans that no one will eat when my pinto beans are scrapped clean everytime. Call me crazy. I'm a Texan, That's how I roll.

I will post photos after the event.

Now on to other things:
video

I had to upload this clip of the chickens from a few days ago. As I watched it, something occurred to me: who exactly, is the stalker here? The cat or me?
All I need is that weird creepy music playing and you'd get the impression that I'm about to slash chicken throats.

I mentioned that we had been given a total of 5 eggs (so far) and we assume this pawltry (poultry) number is due to the lack of daylight and no we don't have a light in the coop to artificially induce laying (yet). We have been taking our time and letting them get acclimated before we ramp up our demands on them. And our acclimating ourselves to life with chickens. But we did eat them and they were delicious.


We have not clipped their wings (yet) and we still watch them sail over the fence but they don't wander off the reservation so that's a good thing. I have not seen ANY neighborhood cat lurking about. Not because they aren't there but probably more due to their caginess. They aren't feral and alive for nothing!

They only go so far as this fence and not a step farther. Higher, yes. Farther, no



And I shouldn't say "they" because, notice, only three are fence-sitting. Ginger doesn't leave the run. It makes me wonder if she is the mother of the chicks. She doesn't hover over them protectively. But she seems perfectly content to hang in the run and cluck nervously when the others head over to the runway.

Last night, we went out to coop them and the sun was still about five minutes til setting. We had to get those three into the run which they obligingly did. We sipped our wine (we are very very civilized out here in the sticks) and watched as they moved slowly toward the coop. Scratching and pecking. Scoping out the sun. Edging closer. Pretending to ignore us.

The white one popped in and up on her roost and bobbed up and down. (I am deaf-ish so I can't know if she was talking to the others but that was the impression I was getting thru the window)

The others were still moving closer but not in any rush. They'd look in and move away. She flew down and out and walked in a circle and went back in. And the others followed, taking one more peek at the setting sun before calling it a day. Amazing, that chicken-nature. They know exactly what they're doing.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

83rd Airborne

Does it seem that I have nothing to write about lately except chickens? It would appear that way.

So here we have the rejects from Ft. Benning Jump School.

video

Now I apologize that the film is on it's side. I forgot about that while I filmed the girls and cannot figure out a way to rotate a movie image. Anyone out there want to drop me a line of advice?

Here is the back story on this: There's cabinet in the coop with a space above and after the first night on the roosts, the four big birds decided that they'd prefer to be higher and went on top of the cabinet. But we can't be having that! so yesterday John closed off the space (mostly) with a frame of chicken wire. I write "mostly" because we watched them try repeatedly to get back up there when they went in for the night.

Of course they'd jump up and meet the wire and flap around and come crashing back to Earth because gravity works well in Louisiana and chickens don't fly naturally. They mostly flap their wings hysterically and make an upwards movement for short distances.

John was afraid they'd keep trying until one or all of them did damage. An hour or so later, he wandered back doen to check on them and Ginger was up there. She managed to squeeze around that small opening to the side, the space I had left open to be able to clean. (Clearly that is not going to work)
Now we have to see how she manages to get back down without injury. But back to the movie.

A few days ago, when I let them out, the 4 were up there and the little ones came running out to get to the scratch I had sprinkled near the door. The others were eyeing them, as only a chicken can do, and decided they wanted in on the action. They came, one at a time, flapping down thru the door and I died laughing at the image. I wanted others to see this!

Enjoy

Monday, December 14, 2009

AWOL

So, it happens that we have a wandering herd of chickens.

I gave up full stop yesterday after the fourth time of climbing neighbor's fences and chasing them back into the run. They just, and I have to chuckle as I write this, watch me and act all nonchalant while they peck around in the run, leading me to a false sense of security. Within minutes of my return to the house, over they go! and wander they will.

It's actually funny! They KNOW what they're doing. We had to leave them at one point and by the time I got back to the coop, it was dark. As we backed out of the driveway, I could see Ginger, still in the run with the little guys and Zee Big WO and at least one of the B/Ws over between the garden and the fence separating us from the back two. I don't know how far or if even they went into our restrictive coventant's subdivision but I'll bet I'll be hearing about it if indeed they did.

Again, when I went out to close the coop after dark, I was apprehensive that they would all be home but sure enough. God gave me enough rain to keep them in their new home long enough to acclimated to it and they know where to go when the sun sets. A small comfort to me, but I'll take it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Developments in Areas of Concern

I think I may have to put the chickens on suicide watch.

Today is the first day of better weather in a week and by that, I don't mean it's great or sunny. It's overcast and mild. So I have been passing the hours out in the garden and keeping on eye on the girls as they peck around in the run. And occasionally I see Zee Big WO jump the fence..... right toward two cats on the other side.

I have been successful , so far, in corralling her back in but now the other three big ones are getting the same idea. I have thus far TWICE shushed them from roosting on the fence and merely thinking about going the whole way over but I can't spend all day every day standing guard.

I hereby reconcile myself with the knowledge that chickens may NOT be in my future. Certainly not if this keeps up.

On another note, I say this is a shallot

and this is a scallion

And I know when I bought them, the feed store said I bought SHALLOTS and when I planted them, they LOOKED like mini-shallots. but what I just pulled out of the ground looks exactly like scallions. They are bunched like scallions and my question to anyone reading this is:

Do these green onions eventually turn bulbous on the bottom or do I actually have scallions and ought to harvest them?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Holly Jolly Blog Bingo

Right, for all of you quilters out there, pop over to The Quilt Shoppe asap and read about this fun game they will be starting shortly.

I love it when shops do stuff like this..... it keeps me going back to see what's happening and new products that I might otherwise never see.

Shopping in jim-jams is more fun than an Alaskan Mall: back when I lived in Valdez, Alaska, shopping was, oh shall we say, challenging? The town was less than 5000 in pop, and when it came to stores, you had liquor stores, coffee shops, groceries and souvenir shops. I tried each Christmas to do all my shopping locally because I truly believe you should support local as often as possible, even if it's slightly or radically more expensive. If the locals fall to the wayside, you have NO options but mail-order.

But my mailbox, a post office box because we had no local delivery out there, was filled daily with catalogues. So instead of driving over to Anchorage, a 7 hour effort, I would make a pot of tea and kick back with the stack of catalogues and "mall-walk". I called that my Alaskan Mall. The stuff I would buy from a catalogue was L.L. Beanesque or Victoria's Secret. Unless you wanted to be kitted out like gold-miner or lumberjack, clothes-shopping was typically done thru the mail.

The advent of the Innertubes has changed so much. It came to my attention the last year we lived there and back then, when I learned how to log-on, it was all text-based. When I saw images (!) appearing, albeit sssllloooowwwwwwwllly, I thought WOWWEE, what have we here???

And I promptly lost myself in cyberspace.

Don't get me wrong, I loved loved loved living in Valdez and Alaska in general but I seldom ever ventured past Ten-Mile in the 5 years I lived there. Lots of people thought NOTHING of hopping in the car and heading to Anchorage for the day. That just wasn't something I wanted to do unless it was for something special. Like mu older daughter's first Girl Scout Camp. My other daughter and I hung around Anchorage for the three days until camp was over and went to see the Lion King. The whole trip was special because it was a real treat. We used every minute in special ways.

Like car maintenance.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Why Not Wyandottes? - UpDated

Anyone reading this drivel who happens to be sound on chicken breeds, please chime in at any time..... so the big deal 'round these parts, aside from all the rain we've been receiving, is trying to determine what breed chicken we have cooped up out there.

We are 99.5% certain the black/whites are Wyandottes, Silver-Laced Wyandottes to be more precise and after reading up on the breed, we are moving in the direction that the red and white ones are also Wyandottes. Now, here is where it will get interesting.

The smallest biddy out there is brown and mottled looking and if she is a Wyandotte, she may end up be the prettiest one of all. The larger biddy looks like snowmelt in Chicago and it's way too soon to know what that one will end up looking like. Presumably much like the Silver-Laceds. And we are still assuming that one is a rooster. No sign of spurs yet, or wattle, He just looks masculine to us.

Up-Date: No the white and the red are definitely NOT Wyandottes:
Our chicken,

From the Internet...... notice they BOTH have a "rose" comb, like a small crown on their heads. This is a characteristic of Wyandottes and our other chickens have that more common straight-up comb. Back to the identification charts.

They have been cooped up for the past two days since all it's been doing outside is rain rain rain. We have collected no more eggs, either and don't know if this due to the stress of the move, new surroundings, less than 12 hours of light or just going into a dormancy. Yes is probably to be checked on all of the above.

That's okay too. We will be running electricity out there when the rain ends and set up a light on a timer. I want to put a radio out there as well to make predators think there are people in there with the chickens.

Up-Date
Okay! So I had my bi-annual doctor's visit and afterwards, his nurse helped identify the chickens!

They are Wyandottes, the black and white ones but Ginger is a Rhode Island Red and Zee Big WO is a White Plymouth Rock. Not so much white at the moment as dingy because she's still roosting up above the cabinet amongst her poop.

We're putting an end to this today by caging off that area with, of all things, chickenwire!!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Charles Leche Takes Fine Feathered Fotografs

I wrote that a friend was over to witness and record the debut of the chickens and I am sharing now a few shots Charlie took on Sunday.

Zee Big WO


This would be Ginger

These photos came over to me by email and they were HUGE and absolutely crystal clear. If chickens had pores, you could count them.


Wyandotte

Anyone who can take images like THIS of CHICKENS (!) fer cryin' out loud, can take awesome photos.

You really should see some of the photos Charlie has taken of New Orleans.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

First Full Day.... Don't Know If I Can Stand the Strain

Full disclosure: I have NEVER lived with chickens and don't know much about them. Oh, let's be completely honest; I don't know anything about them! Not a darn thing. So everything that happened today was a novelty.

It began with us walking out and peeking thru the door to see them staring back at us with beady eyes. SO CUTE! but we were not going to let them out til some friends arrived for Sunday Brunch. Like debutantes "coming out".

photo by Charles Leche

So two guests arrived and as we waited for the last, we wandered out to the Back Two and opened the door. And out they popped! Their first day in their new home!!!!

And they were naturally skittish of us and the surroundings and huddled over in a corner. Two corners, because the little ones never ventured far from the safety of the coop and hay.

We had fun taking photos and here is a professional photographer, Charles Leche, taking serious shots of the Ladies!

I will ask permission to reveal his name and perhaps a couple of portraits he took. I have seen them and they are amazing Chicken Photography. You'll want some for your kitchen, they are so good.

Before the guests had arrived, John marched back into the house with an egg in his closed hand and exclaimed, "We may have a problem!!"
"What?"
""How many fake eggs did you put in the nestboxes?"
"Two. Why?"
"What color were they?"
"One white, one brown. WHY?"
"Did you put them in the same box?"
"NO! Why?"
And he produced this brown egg and tells me he thinks it was in with the white one and then picked up the other brown one and got them juggled and now can't tell the difference!
Well, I may not know much about chickens but I'm pretty sound when it comes to EGGS and I took it from him, looked at it and proclaimed it to be the real McCoy.
"How can you be so sure!?"
Because it was slightly irregular, and the fake ones are perfect! "Now, you should go and mark the two fake ones immediately."
His turn to start asking my question....."Why?"
"Because we'll be right back here with the same dilemma in a few hours when another hen lays, right?"
Sure enough. Now, one of these.... no, wait, TWO of these things are not like the other two......

You can tell which are which, right?

So as the day continued, we would go outside, sprinkle scratch around our feet to encourage them to come nearer and they did. The little ones are hilarious and nervous. Peck, Bolt. Peck, bolt. And if the big ones caught on to their pile of scratch, they'd RUN over and give them a knock on the head and send them dashing for the coop.
One time we went out, there all the chickens were, under the huge tree out back. Outside of their run and had to be rounded up and yeehawed back. John and Tim boarded up the exits and we thought, good enough! Silly chickens.
John drove Tim to the airport and I stayed behind to keep an eye on the wanderers. I took the camera and witnessed the meeting of Q and the Chickens.

She didn't know what to make of this. If you look thru the fence, you'll see her watching the chickens and they were all bold and walking toward her, craning their necks and looking more like roosters than hens. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.
video

The little ones stayed closed to the coop and I could see Q watching them, too. Interestingly, I never saw Polo all day. Other neighborhood cats were on the fringe of the property but I don't know if they ever came that far back to the runs. We may have problems with cats.

We came out again and found the white one had jumped into the second run and her friends were clucking with mild panic through the fence at her so we herded her back to them. She went right back over! So we shushed her in the coop and she settled down on the nest. ANOTHER egg.
Tally for Day One: 3 brown eggs. I really thought hers would be white.

So we went back to watch the Saints go 12 - 0 and thought now we ought to go coop them all up. As we approached the run, we could see no chickens and thought, Great! they roosted themselves!!! Hurray!!
John looked in, it was dark in the gloaming, and said, "They're gone."
"WHAT!? All of them?"
"NO, the little ones are on the top rung."
We headed out to the big tree with John explaining that they've gone to roost, probably up in that tree and we'll never get them down now that the light is down. But we couldn't find them anywhere and I was was trying to muster the courage to tell our benefactors how awfully we messed up..... as we walked back. I popped my head head in and you could BARELY make out the two little ones, still huddled together. I peered into the nestboxes and only saw the two fake eggs. Bummer.
Then, I looked up above the cabinet and there in the darkness I could make out what I imagined were shapes. "John! Look up there!"
His eyes are much better than mine and he started laughing.... and my heart stopped racing as it had been.
"Are they all there?"
"Yes. They're all up there. I should've known!"

First Night Passes

We snuck up to the coop last night to check on the chickens and sure enough, they were roosting on both poles. All but the white one were on the top bunk while she was huddled solo on the bottom rung. They looked pretty cozy and snug. The two little ones were so tight against one another, they looked like one bird.

To answer where the chickens came from, I'll just say these 6 came from a couple who live north of here and have a horse ranch. The horses you see in the past post are but 2 of I think more than 8. Some are Irish Draft horses and that one most prominent in the photo was my favorite, so beautiful with the markings and very curious. Unfortunately, the top fence board was so high right there that I couldn't get a really good shot of it. All I have to show is this



Which doesn't give justice to the beauty of this horse.

Back to the chickens, catching them was a hoot and I didn't even try. I have been trying to touch them in the coop but they are so skittish the best I can do is touch the tail feathers when they are pecking at scratch. As soon as they feel my fingers, they bolt for the other end of the coop. Luckily, it is a small coop so they can't really get too far away. I do hope they settle down enough to not be afraid of me. It's not like I want to be their best friend, or anything, but I would like them to not fear my presence. I bet food is going to be my path to this end.

So I sat on a bale of hay and just talked to them..... and watched the smallest chick dash around and get hammered by the white one.... I suppose I'm going to have to name them. That W.O. is a taskmaster. The small ones really stick together but I get the impression that the larger of the two is like an older cousin, trying to shake the youngest one at a holiday gathering and be left alone for a minute, The little cousin doesn't quite get what the deal is and just starts tailing and yakking. "whaddaya wanna do, whaddaya wanna do!?"

In honor of their arrival to their new home, we had chicken pot pie for dinner.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I'm having issues imbedding a video into these posts. I was hoping to show the catch and release of the hens and will keep on keeping on with the trying but in the meantime, here's some more shots of the goofy little birds.

video

As you can see they are gorgeous and a little afraid of the new home.


I have been sitting out there on the hay and speaking to them. I sprinkled some corn and they seemed to cheer up with that. Even the two little guys were scrambling for a piece of the action.
As they have only been here a few short hours it's not for certain, but I think I know the top of the "pecking order" already. It's the white hen.....

when the little two get cheeky, she gives them a hard knock with her beck. Who knows if she is truly on top of the others but I know (and more importantly, THEY know) who's minding who between those three!


The two biddies are stuck to each other constantly but they don't look like each other.

You can see the larger of the two next to the white chicken two photos back.... The smallest one is trickier to photograph.
We're going to keep them inside the coop til tomorrow so they roost in their new home and get familiar before we let them see their new playground.

Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens!

video


Wheeeee...... we have chickens!!! At long last and they are BEAUTIFUL!!! Let the FUN begin!.

Now, mind you, while the chicken rustlin' was commencing, I stayed firmly behind the camera and laughed at the catchers. Altogether we got 4 adults and 2 biddies. Two are Black and White (maybe Wyandottes) one is buff-colored and a white chicken. The little guys are too little still to know what they. At least, to THIS uneducated person, they are still too young. I suppose an experienced birdman would know what they are looking at. Also, we were warned that the biddies COULD be roosters, too young to know. Okay.... if that is what they turn out to be.... I'll cross that bridge at that time.


Before.


Is There Anything Sillier Than Catching Chickens?


How About Stuffing Them Into the Back of a Truck?

With an audience (s)nickering ?

Houston Got Snow. Folsom Got Snow

We worked like crazy yesterday preparing for the coming snow, making teepees to protect the young citrus trees. By the time we got back from "town" (Mandeville) with the plastic sheeting, it was dark. NO sooner than we placed the last bricks around the base of the final tree, down came the rain.
After this we climbed into the truck and returned to pick up a friend in Madisonville and by this time it was raining sideways. But we got back home safe and sound and just in time for the rain to turn completely to snow. This is what greeted us this morning:


Just a Dusting, Really


This is NOTHING compared to what we saw up in Mt Hermon this morning.

I Wonder How Carrots Like the Chill....

oh yeah........and I got chickens! Whoo-hoo!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Disaster!!!!

No, not really. We have returned from our Thanksgiving travels to South Texas only to find that 'round these parts, we had cold enough weather to kill the yellow squash, tomato plants and potato plants. Well who saw that coming?

On the positive note, the English peas that were massive in size but empty of flowers and veg are now aglow with the blossoms so that's good news. And all the rest, the "winter" vegetables, are growing beautifully. I see a cauliflower forming and I will pause today long enough to fold the leaves over the budhead. From what I gather, this is how one keeps the crown from bolting as it grows in size.

This means, of course, that fall is firmly over and winter looms; which tells us to pick up the speed and make preparations for the up-coming (possible)(probable) freezes. I read on the innertubes that Houston is expecting (hoping?) for snow today. Last year, right around now, we had so much snow in Mandeville, people were driving over from Mississippi to take a look. It seems the snow just couldn't muster the strength to venture much past the Pearl River.

I have few photos from Thanksgiving to share. South Texas has been particular bereft of rain during this recent drought. You may recall my mentioning my in-laws and their fabulous place down there.

They have a lake that is over 16' in depth and has been almost bone dry for the better part of the past year. Not good. T has taken this opportunity to clear out stuff that became exposed so again, that was a good thing. We take the good with the bad and make the most of it!

Well, the Thursday before Thanksgiving, they had 12" on rain and the lake filled up and over-flowed and has settled down to this:


Which makes all creatures happy! Like these!


Pygmy Goats. This is the female herd.

Here you see T, my BIL and fount of knowledge about bees, beekeeping and bee-avoiding (this is important, don't snicker), introducing David to the "puppies".


Doesn't David look happy?

He blanched when I told him the female would rip his liver out and leave it while the male would just eat his brains. Buddy weighs in at 200 lbs. Cleo is lighter and has amazing paws that make the ripping of livers easier. They are Anatolian shepherds and protect the ranch from anything that moves unless Terry lets them know otherwise. Even the things that fly over the area are menaced by these two.
Seriously. They haven't lost a single goat.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Chicken Humor

John was in the fertilized egg business. He had several hundred young layers (hens), called ‘pullets,’ and ten roosters to fertilize the eggs. [A pullet is a female layer hen that is just beginning to lay eggs]

He kept records, and any rooster not performing went into the soup pot and was replaced. This took a lot of time, so he bought some tiny bells and attached them to his roosters. Each bell had a different tone, so he could tell from a distance, which rooster was performing.

Now, he could sit on the porch and fill out an efficiency report by just listening to the bells.

John’s favorite rooster, old Butch, was a very fine specimen, but this morning he noticed old Butch’s bell hadn’t rung at all!

When he went to investigate, he saw the other roosters were busy chasing pullets, bells-a-ringing, but the pullets, hearing the roosters coming, could run for cover.

To John’s amazement, old Butch had his bell in his beak, so it couldn’t ring.

He’d sneak up on a pullet, do his job and walk on to the next one.

John was so proud of old Butch, he entered him in the Renfrew County Fair and he became an overnight sensation among the judges.

The result was the judges not only awarded old Butch the “No-Bell PiecePrize” but they also awarded him the “Pulletsurprise” as well.

Clearly old Butch was a politician in the making.

Who else but a politician could figure out how to win two of the most highly coveted awards on our planet by being the best at sneaking up on the populace and screwing them when they weren’t paying attention.

Vote carefully next time, the bells are not always audible.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

There WILL Be Pie

Thanksgiving is in 3 days (two really, but it's still morning on Tuesday) and this means PIE. As in, time to be baking PIES.
Last year we made the usual suspects: pumpkin, apple and pecan and a new-comer, Snickerdoodle Pie. That was the last to be consumed so this year we swap it out for

Cheesecake.

NomNomNomNomNomNom

We are in Port A, holed up and waiting for the teaglettes to fly in from the East. It is raining outside and no better time can be spent other than in the pursuit of pie and quilt-making. Reading comes in a close Third but I didn't bring any material or the Kindle for that matter. (boo)

This town, Port Aransas, Texas, is a sleepy back-water burgh and fishing village, plodding along in a pace all it's own. We take a 3-minute ferry from Aransas Pass. We went fishing the first day and although I caught a couple, they were on the small side; too small to legally keep but the catching was fun. John brought home the bacon. er, redfish. I brought home panda eyes. Toasty toasty.

Port A has a micro-brewery, been open almost two years. Beer beckons, must answer the call. I asked for a sampler set and chose 5. Not one was great. They need work. The after-taste was medicinal. I couldn't make a single one even that good but I am a critic. The worst kind of critic: the kind that PAYS for the fare and then critiques.

The condo we have rented has 2 bedrooms and a complete kitchen. Great view out the window of the harbor and channel. Lots of boat activity, even for the autumn. This was dawn on the first day.


We walked out on the pier, Day Two, and found Pele here, giving me the evil eye. He was SO FINE. Never stopped watching for a moment. Kept swiveling around and posing, but never afraid either. The glare was so bad I had a hard time getting a quality shot and even this one has his beak shaved off but what a glorious face!



THE ONLY thing I dislike about being away from home is that I am also away from this:

She was so sacked out, her mouth hung open!!!