Category Archives: Food

The Massacre

“There was a different looking cat under the chicken coop.”

This may seem like an innocent enough comment, but coming from my 5-year-old as he held an empty egg carton…it sounded ominous.

“A different looking cat?” I asked.

“Yeah, it was under the coop playing with a chicken. That’s why I didn’t get eggs.”

Uh oh.

“I’ll go check,” I said as I went out in the bright, noon sunshine and headed toward the coop.

“Mommy, be careful!” called my oldest, worry in his eyes.

I was halfway to the coop when I saw movement. A few more steps and the “different kind of cat” shot out from under the coop, a chicken in its jaws.

A fox had been in the henhouse. 

Surely, I thought, he had just captured PJ, our one free-range hen. There was no way a fox could actually get in the henhouse. Right?

I checked on the smaller flock first. The three ladies looked a little shaken up, but aside from a few loose feathers, they were unharmed.

I could see a lifeless chicken under the coop. I could only assume it was PJ. On closer inspection, her head and body were all intact. She looked almost peaceful.

But wait…if PJ was in one piece without a leg, thigh or head missing…what did the fox have in its mouth?

It was then I heard it.

The eerie sound of silence.

Not a whisper or a rustle came from the coop. Not a hen wandered in the pen.

I slowly opened the laying box and peeked inside. All I could see were feathers.

I opened the big door and saw bodies everywhere.

It was a feathery massacre.

Not one of the Pearl White Leghorns had survived. All bodies, save one, were accounted for. The missing body, I could only assume, was in the belly of the fox.

I don’t know if I truly interrupted his theft, or if he was only going to take one bird all along. I’ve read that the fox can get in a “killing frenzy” when cooped up with a bunch of hens, but usually will only leave with one. Creepy.

As I started to remove the dead, I noticed something strange. Only two hens were headless.

The rest were just…dead. There was no outward sign of fowl play. 

As I picked the bodies up with my three-layer-gloved hands, I saw what had happened. The fox, had broken all their necks, but only taken one as a prize.

The guilt set in as I realized what had really happened. The words I had spoken only the night before echoed in my mind.

“We need to butcher the hens before winter. All of them except the new ones.”

The wily fox had heard me and granted my wish.

Spoiled Eggs

Skulking and sneaking
I thought she was dead
But here she is peeking
Now I’m filled with dread

She’s laying eggs somewhere
I watch her and wonder
Will I find them out there?
Which bush are they under?

I’ve looked in the tall grass
I’ve searched under sheds
I’ve peaked when I pass
All of my garden beds

But still I can’t find them
And I greatly fear
My sniffer will smell ’em
If I ever draw near


It only took a few days to get ready to process the two roosters we butchered last week. By day three, I was ready.

They had soaked in a saltwater brine for the full three days. Some say to soak them longer, some say just a day. I picked three days only because we went on vacation.

For the dinner, I threw a bird in the slow cooker with apples, onions, carrots, celery, fresh garlic from the garden and a random selection of fresh herbs.

I cooked it on low for 24 hours and then switched to “keep warm” for the afternoon. The aroma that filled the house was mouthwatering.

For the bone broth, I filled a big stockpot with water and dumped a freezer bag full of onion tops, celery and carrot scraps I’d been saving for just such an occasion. I also threw in two whole bulbs of fresh garlic.

I simmered it for a full day. When I went to strain the broth, the chicken fell right off the bone. The boys and I sampled it. It does not taste like store-bought chicken and it is much darker with very, very little fat.

I added the shredded chicken to the crock pot and the veggies went to the chickens. They were happy little hens.

I cooked rice for dinner and spooned the tender chicken and veggies over it.

It was delicious. The apples added a nice sweet flavor and the carrots were perfect. The meat was not dry like it was the last time I tried cooking a fresh bird and the boys each had two helpings.

From two big roosters, we got 6 quarts of bone broth and 3 days worth of meals. I’ll freeze the little that is left over and make enchiladas next week. YUM!

The Stockpot

Sir Hubert was the first to go
Caught by something sly
Then came little Fluffy
Her death made me cry

Then roosters started crowing
And squabbles soon began
We knew we had to do it
So I prepared the pan

The biggest two were chosen
The first to hit the pot
We calmed their nervous shaking
We told them thanks a lot

They lived in ease and comfort
Eating yummy scraps and bugs
We thanked them most sincerely
With kind words (instead of hugs)

*We butchered two roosters yesterday. We take their lives with respect and we thank them for their work on our homestead. In return, we treat them well, feed them scraps and treats and provide them with the safest home we can. Despite the humor infused in my stories and poems, we do sincerely thank our birds for providing us with eggs, meat and fertilizer.*

Goji Growth

One pair of plants the Japanese beetles have not yet discovered are the goji berries we planted in the vineyard two years ago.

The vines are getting longer and starting to run on the ground, so we’ll be putting a row of wire up soon to make sure they have somewhere to ramble.

I’ve only ever had dried goji berries and the few puny ones that we got off the plant last year. They have a slightly bitter taste. Kind of like a cherry/cranberry/raisin combo. The boys and I like them, but we like a slightly sour berry.

The real benefit of these little pill shaped fruits is vitamins and nutrition they provide. The been shown to boost the immune system, improve brain activity and protect against cancer and heart disease.

They are packed with vitamin C, B2 and A and contain antioxidants like iron and selenium. In short, they are a superfood.

We’ve tried them out of hand. They’d probably be good in cereal or oatmeal too. Many people make a tea out of the berries. We may try that if we get enough this year. The plants are still pretty small, so we may just eat them off the vine again.

Small, delicate and wispy
Quietly growing vines
Leaves not brown and crispy
Flowers and leaves on a vine

Fruit oblong and rosy
Tasty and juicy too
Clumped together and cozy
A delicate, reddish hue

The Raised Beds

We shoveled, wheelbarrowed and transported dirt this weekend from the greenhouse at the neighbors to our yard.

Because the greenhouse is, well, a greenhouse, the crew had to work early mornings and at dusk when the temperatures were not so high and the air was not so still.

Midday on Saturday, before quittin’ time, they brought the raised beds over.

I watched the skid steer lumber over the yard, that first bed in its metal arms and felt giddy.

Even with all the garden space we have, I’m excited about these raised beds. Most of them will go in the greenhouse when it is up, but a few will stay out along the deck holding lettuce, spinach and all the leafy greens.

Once we set up the first bed, I started preparing the soil. I raked in egg shells and vegetable fertilizer and watered it thoroughly.

Once the bed was ready, I planted:

  • 2 rows of kale
  • 1 row of spinach
  • 6 rows of four different varieties of lettuce
  • 1/2 row of lavender
  • 1/2 row of rosemary
  • 1/2 row of basil

I labeled everything, but as I don’t have much luck with labels staying in one spot (ahem…cats and kids), I also drew a map.

The “MG” stands for marigolds. I planted 3 rather sad looking specimens down the center and plan to get a few more to add this week.

I might be a little “off-schedule” with some of the varieties I planted, but it is definitely not too late to start a garden.

Most garden centers have a seed starting schedule specific to your area/zone that is based on the average last frost date.

All those greens, broccolis, cabbages, beans, brussels sprouts and other cool season crops can continue to go in the ground from now through mid-August.

So don’t give up if you think it’s too late to start a garden! Plant now and you’ll have fresh garden veggies for the fall.

Fall gardens are best
For yummy sides and salads
And the taste of sun

Kitchen Garden 2017

It’s only January, but with the seed catalogs beckoning me, I’m itching to get my hands in the soil.


I know, I know. It will be awhile before that can happen.

But in the meantime…

I’ll be dog-earing the pages in my favorite seed catalogs.

I’ll be making lists for the kitchen garden, the vineyard, the fedge and the swales.

I’ll be looking at last year’s lessons learned and drawing up this year’s kitchen garden, fedge, vineyard and swale plans.

I’ll be dreaming of all the herbs, veggies, berries and grapes that are sure to grow on the homestead this year.

Will this be the year the apple trees blossom?

Will it be the year we finally get kiwi?

Will we, at long last, be cutting asparagus to eat rather than watching (mournfully) as it grows taller and taller so we can chop it down and shake out the seeds?

How I hope it will!

But before I can harvest all of this wonderful produce, the plans need to be drawn up and the seeds planted…starting with the kitchen garden.

The plans this year are not quite as aggressive as the past few year’s have been.


I’m cutting down from 15 squares, to 8. For the past two years, I’ve let the weeds take over due to time constraints and a little laziness. I’m hopeful that with 8 plots, I’ll be able to better manage the crops as well as have time to do some serious chopping and dropping during the season.

I’m not planting as many tomatoes this year, not because I don’t want them, but because I know we will have a zillion volunteers that will need new homes.

I’ve planned for enough herbs and marigolds to help ward off pests, but the majority of the herbs will be in my herb spiral…last year’s big success.

I’m moving the squash arch closer to the deck. Why you ask?

Well…I did not take the chickens into consideration when I built it smack in the middle of the garden.


I had to sacrifice the garlic I planted under it so that the chickens could continue their work fertilizing the soil, making it ready for the spring planting…I sure hope they enjoy it.

Kitchen garden plans
Sketched and colored in the cold
Drawn up in the cold

Rest, Brine, Freeze (or Cook)

There is nothing like fresh chicken…so we’ve heard and read.

I don’t mean fresh from the store or fresh from the freezer.

I mean really fresh chicken.

Ray, his dad and brother butchered 5 chickens on Saturday. Last year, we vacuum sealed them, labeled them and put them in the freezer immediately.

That was a mistake. Since they were older birds, we should have let them ‘rest’ in a brine in the fridge for a few days. That’s what we did this year.

After 4 days, in a salt water brine, we pulled two out to test.

I made vegetable chicken soup. I threw in whatever I had on hand. Carrots, celery, onion and mix of herbs and spices…garlic, oregano, basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper.


I cooked it all afternoon on a low simmer, removed the bones, shredded the meat and put it all back in the pot. The meat was a little tough, but not nearly as leathery as last year’s birds.

We tasted it.

I thought it was delicious, but Joe told me it needed more salt…and broccoli.

Farm fresh chicken soup
Simmering on the stove top
Delicious and warm

Oven Roasted

I love roasted veggies. The caramelization brings out those natural sugars and crisps up the edges, and there are so many combinations of herbs, spices and oils to use.

It’s (almost) the only way I’ll eat cooked brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower on their own.

With our bountiful brussels sprout harvest and the overwhelming amount of Jerusalem artichokes we have…what better way to eat them up?


I sliced up around a pound of sunchokes into 1/2 inch rounds. You can go thinner or thicker depending on how crispy you like them.

I didn’t peel them, and I don’t recommend you do either. The skins are thinner than a potato skin and it are packed full of nutrients. Plus, it would be really annoying to peel around all the little nibs and nobs.

Next, I rinsed and dried the sprouts, cut off any yucky parts for the chickens and threw them in with the sliced sunchokes. They weren’t very big, so I left them whole.

Then I started to play.

I crumbled freshly dried rosemary and thyme over the veggies, sprinkled them with salt and pepper and garlic powder and tossed the whole mixture in oil. I used liquid coconut oil, but any oil would work.

I spread the whole mess on a large cast iron skillet, as close to a single layer as I could, and roasted them in the oven at 425* for around 20 minutes.

I kept checking them to make sure they weren’t getting too burnt after the 10 minute mark.

The aroma was delicious. My mouth watered and I could hardly wait to taste the dish.

I wasn’t disappointed.


Harvest in the Fall

We’ve been waiting for the brussels sprouts to get bigger, but it seems that they’ve grown as much as they are going to.

The boys were excited to harvest them and, truth be told, so was I.


I have purchased fresh brussels sprouts, still on the stalk, at the store. Our stalks are larger and taller but our sprouts are smaller than storebought.


I worried that they were not ripe, but the leaves were starting to spread so we tasted one…or two…or three.

They were delicious and sweet, with a slight bite. Joe absolutely loved them. He could not stop eating the ‘baby cabbages’.


While harvesting these tiny wonders, we found some kale ready to pick.

I’d forgotten that I’d planted it so it was a nice surprise and, since it is soup season, will be a tasty addition to vegetable chicken soup.


There were also cherry tomatoes red and sweet on the vine and a random cucumber, but the kale and brussels sprouts were the most exciting fall harvest.


Pumped up by our discoveries, we prowled the homestead in search of more produce ready to pick.

We were rewarded. Our autumn olive had red and pink berries that were sweeter and slightly bigger than last year’s crop.


They were only on one side of the shrub though. The other side is all new growth thanks to the ice storm that split the plant in two last year. I’m just happy that it grew back instead of dying.

The boys burrowed in and refused to leave until they picked and ate all of the ‘delicious berries’.

wp-1477253724215.jpg wp-1477253724243.jpg

Next, we harvested ‘a few’ Jerusalem artichokes.

My niece and I spent an hour or so digging them up, but we barely made a dent.


There are so many still in the ground and I don’t know what I am going to do with all of them.

I froze around half of what we collected, but freezing them changes the consistency. They’ll be mushy so I’ll have to mash the frozen ones in with potatoes and puree them into soups.

They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks so I’ll be sharing them with friends and family.

I’m not too worried about how far they’ve spread. The yellow flowers are beautiful and the tall green stems lovely.

Plus, we do have several acres for them to spread and pop up and we may be able to sell some of them next year.


In all, we’ve had a successful fall harvest. Now on to planting garlic before the ground freezes.

Some kale right here
Some berries there
Artichokes are everywhere

Sprouts all around
More than a pound
I’ll roast ’em ’til they’re crisp and brown

Fall veggies grow
Until there’s snow
And bitter winds howl loud and blow