Saturday, December 16, 2006

Kahlil and Herman

In order to avoid some Christmas shopping I needed to do today, I decided my dog Kahlil needed exercise. So I walked him down the lane next to the cow pasture at Codman Farm. The pasture is full of "normal" cows and this one little water buffalo steer named Herman. I'd met Herman before when I had to go into the pasture for the White Rock broiler chicken project. Cows scare me a bit. They are big. Some Holsteins look as big as minivans. I once climbed into the chicken tractor because I thought a young curious bull had come too close. I wouldn't leave until someone else came into the pasture to escort me out. I knew that bull could tell I was afraid. People came and went and he never bothered them, but he made me nervous. I was kind of glad when he moved on to where ever bulls go when the get older, the auction, the freezer, I don't really know, just some place where at least he won't frighten me. Herman is different. He's not intimidating. He's very friendly. He likes people. He likes attention. I'm not at all afraid of him. He's from a breed that produces buffalo mozzarella.
When Herman came to the fence, Kahlil acted the way he would around a dog that size. He looked away from him and wouldn't make eye contact. Herman lowered his head to put it through the fence. His body language must have not looked aggressive to Kahlil because Kahlil tentatively went to him. They smelled each other barely touching noses. Then Kahlil rested his muzzle on top of Herman's face. They have both been conditioned by humans to be friendly, but you do have to wonder what goes through their minds at a moment like this.

Don't forget to head over to Sweetnicks for Weekend Dog Blogging each Sunday night.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Chicken Butchering – Part 4 – Evisceration

Part 1 Prep
Part 2 Slaughter
Part 3 Plucking
Part 4 Evisceration and
Part 5 Eating & Freezing Part
6 Final Thoughts

After trying to write this post, I concluded that a movie would make a lot more sense. Maybe next year I'll try that, but for now, this is it.

Eviscerating a chicken is the process of removing the insides. It's one of those things that is much easier to show someone rather than write down the process. I'm not sure this post will be of any help in explaining how to evicerate a chicken, but I suppose the pictures show something that people don't often get to observe. Just as there is more than one way to skin a cat there is more than one way to gut a chicken. The follow is what has worked for us.

Step1. After the chicken is finished being plucked, remove the feet. These are removed at the joint. We used a knife to do this, but I think some kind of poultry or garden pruning shears would have been easier.
Step2. Slice off the oil gland. This is on the top (if the chicken is standing up) of the tail.
Step3. Cut off the neck close to the body and save it for soup. At the neck opening you will see two tubes going into the chicken. The smoother one is the esophagus which goes to the crop and the one that looks like a vacuum cleaner hose is the trachea. Loosen them from the body.
Step4. Lay the chicken on its back with the tail facing you. From just under the end of the breast bone, start to cut the skin. Cut down toward the vent about maybe halfway. You want to be careful not to knick the intestine, so you might want to pinch or hold the skin toward you as you are doing this. Now cut the skin from the bottom of the incision to each side. The incision will be an upside down T at this point and should be big enough to squeeze your hand through. If it's not then enlarge it. Do NOT cut all the way down to the vent though.
Step5. Now comes the fun part. You are going to reach inside. The first time I did this I was surprised that it was warm inside a chicken. After years handling chicken for food prep which of course comes from the fridge very cold, I was initially surprised to put my hand inside a chicken and find it warm. It shouldnÂ’t have been a surprise, but it was.
Step6. As you are squeezing your hand through the opening that you just made, run your fingers up along the breast bone. When you are all the way in, grab whatÂ’s inside and pull it out. It takes a little force, but remarkably most all of the insides come out. Do not detach the intestine from the vent just yet.
Step7. Now, cut around the vent. This will be a cut the is shaped like a U. This will separate what you just pulled out and you will have removed the vent without cutting the intestine. You are almost done now and you chicken looks like a “normal” chicken.
Step8. It is possible that when you pulled out everything from the inside the lungs stayed behind. If you do not have a ‘lung puller’ (yes, there is such a thing) then reach in with your index and middle finger and scrape out the two redish pinkish things that are on the bottom and forward.
Step9. If it is a rooster you will notice two things are the size beans on the back of the chicken inside. These are the testicles and can be removed also. IÂ’ve often seen them missed in chicken that I got from the store.
Step10. Now rinse the chicken thoroughly with water inside and out.
Step11. Now you are finished and want to get the chicken cooled down. We fill tubs cold water and ice and chill the chickens down quickly in the ice water for a while before refrigerating them

Store bought chickens usually come with their, liver, heart, and gizzard. For this batch of chickens we saved the hearts and livers and I gave the feet and gizzards away to a friend at work who took them. NOTE. When you are separating the heart and liver from the rest of the insides, you must be careful not to break the gall bladder. It's the greenish thing connected to the liver. If it breaks, bile comes out. We tossed out any liver that bile got onto and then very thoroughly washed any cutting board or knife that bile got onto if we did break the gall bladder.

Shows after the insides have been removed. The large round thing is the gizzard. The dark thing is the liver. Below the liver, is the intestine.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Chicken Butchering – Part 3 – Plucking

Once the chickens have been killed and bled out, the next step is plucking. Before the chickens are plucked they need to be dunked into hot water to loosen the feathers. We set up a large pot of water on a propane burner and heated it up to about 150 degrees. If you gather together five people who have plucked chickens, I suspect you will get 6 opinions as to the correct temperature and amount of time for this scalding step. If the scald is too hot or long then the skin may tear when you pluck. If the temperature of the scald is too low then the feathers will be very difficult to pluck. The person doing the scalding and plucking eventually gets the feel for the perfect scald temperature and time...

The first batch we butchered we hand plucked some and machine plucked some. By the time we did the second batch we had gotten the knack of the machine plucker and were doing them all by machine. The machine is ancient, but still does the job. It consists of a rotating drum with rubber finger like things that stick out. As the chicken is held against the rotating drum, the rubber fingers pull the feathers off. In addition to drum pluckers like we used, there are tub pluckers. These are even easier. You just put the scalded chickens inside and they are plucked clean with out even holding them.

Part 1 Prep
Part 2 Slaughter
Part 3 Plucking
Part 4 Evisceration and Chilling
Part 5 Eating & Freezing
Part 6 Final Thoughts
Checking the temperature of the scald while some geese look on. The knew it was chicken butchering day and they were safe :)

Plucking a chicken with the old automatic plucker.

Making sure the plucker did a good job.

Plucking by hand.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Chicken Butchering – Part 2 - Slaughter

In my first post on this topic, I explained how the chickens were fed and brought to the area where we slaughter and butcher them. This post is graphic so click away if chicken slaughter is not something you wish to see or read about just now.

There are a number of different steps involved once the chickens are rounded up. The first is the actual killing. There are a number of humane ways to achieve this. Some people cut the jugular vein. Some wring the necks and others chop off the heads. The easiest one for us physically and emotionally was to chop their heads off. This was done with a hatchet. We opened the door of the coop reached in, took a chicken and carried it to the chopping block. The chicken is laid across the block and a loop of string is placed around its neck. This loop is so the chicken will not move just before the ax falls. The chopper holds the feet of the chicke and swings. Each of us who swung the axe did not fear killing the chicken. Rather, not killing the chicken was a far greater fear. Our goal of a quick death for the chicken helped us be careful and accurate in our swing.

We’ve all heard stories about chicken running around with their heads cut off. Based on how much flapping of wings occurs while we hold the feet of a headless chicken, I believe this would be true. Out of respect for the chicken and fear of creating a big mess I don’t believe in testing this theory. After the head was severed, we placed the chicken upside down in a cone to finish bleeding. Under the cone is a bucket to catch the blood. The next step after the chicken is finished bleeding out is plucking. I’ll describe that in my next post of this series.
Chicken Butchering
Part 1 Prep
Part 2 Slaughter
Part 3 Plucking
Part 4 Evisceration and Chilling
Part 5 Eating & Freezing
Part 6 Final Thoughts

chicken slaughter

My Thanksgiving turkey, a Royal Palm, about to be slaughtered. Note the cone on the right for bleeding the chickens. The turkey is too big for this cone and needs to be held in a bucket instead.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Warm Fall

We've had such a warm fall here in Massachusetts. I just noticed this dandelion blooming in my front yard and it actually looks like the grass needs cutting. It's practically December!
Just a few weeks ago I brought this geranium inside to winter over. I probably could have left it outside if I had covered it on frosty nights. There really hasn't been a hard sustained frost yet. My rosemary and sage are still hanging on.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Chicken Butchering - Part 1 - Prep

As you may remember from earlier posts, I'm involved in a pastured poultry project at Codman Farm. We are raising some White Rock chickens out on pasture. They spend their days outside in the cow pasture and at night they go into the mobile coop to sleep and be safe from owls and other flying predators. Ground predators are stopped by the portable electric fence that surrounds them. Every few days the mobile coop is moved to a new area so they can have fresh pasture.

Last Monday was butchering day. The first step started the day before. Instead of giving the chickens their usual afternoon feed and water, they are only given water. Essentially they are on a clear liquid diet for the 12 hours before butchering. This insures that there is little or no food in their digestive tract. That will make an easier and cleaner job the next day. The next morning they are brought to the area where we will kill and butcher them. Because they sleep in the mobile coop, this job is very easy and does not involve chasing or catching or stressing the chickens. Heidi drove the tractor to the field, hooked up the mobile coop, and towed them back. It's a really simple way to "round up" 124 chickens.

From the other side of the coop you see can the chickens all at the anxious to get out. It is a simple matter to open the door and take one out at a time to butcher. One feature of the mobile coop that you can not see from the picture is that the floor boards are spaced so that much of the manure falls out. This means that the coop doesn't need constant cleaning. The manure that falls fertilizes the cow pasture.

NOTE: I'm wondering if this chicken butchering series is going to bother anyone. I plan to indicate in the title what will be covered and have some text before the pictures so people have a chance to leave if they don't want to look at the pictures. What does everyone think? I really don't want to upset upset someone who is unprepared. For those of you who are really interested in the process, another blogger has created a really great video clip of the process which you can see here.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving Squash

Thanks to Helen of Beyond Salmon for giving me an idea of what to do with the delicata squash that I grew this summer. I made a variation of her recipe for Thanksgiving dinner.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I'm Still Here - New Camera on the Way

Wow It's hard to believe it's been almost a month since I posted. I've finally ordered a new camera to replace my old one that bit the dust. I've borrowed a camera in the mean time, but it's just no fun using it and I don't like posting without a photo. I've decided on a Canon Powershot A710 to replace my Nikon Coolpix 950 that I did love despite the fact that it was a 2 megapixel camera and quite old. I should have the new one in about 1o days.

In the mean time, here are some photos of sunflowers. Where I plant my vegetable garden, sunflowers grow wild and I always leave or transplant one or more to act as "poles" for something climbing. Last year I grew Romano pole beans on some sunflowers and this year I grew yardlong beans one sunflower stalk. When the sunflower is a few feet tall I pinch the ends to make it branch to give the beans more places to climb. As the beans grow up the plant I also pull off as many leaves from the sunflower plant as I can without killing it. This is to let more light in. This was my first year growing yard long beans. I didn't like the taste as much as regular string beans, but I did like it enough to grow them again. Each beanpod is about 18 inches long . That makes harvesting go really quickly.
If you click on the photo for a larger image, you can see some of the yardlong beans hanging on the right side of the plant.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Chickens on Pasture

finally, a few weeks ago the broiler chicks were moved out to the pasture. They are locked up in the mobile coop at night for protection and let out during the day. They are surrounded by electric fencing to protect them from predators or overly curious cows with whom they are sharing a pasture. The vast majority of chickens raised in our country never even go out of doors for their entire lives and live in very crowded conditions. I'm so happy to be raising my meat in a healthier and more humane way. People ask me how I can butcher and eat something I helped raise myself. These same people eat supermarket chicken with no qualms.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

How to Weigh a Chicken - The Easy Way

Before today, each week I used to catch some of the chicks, put them in a cardboard box and weigh them and record the average weight. Today I couldn't find the cardboard box. The chickens showed me a much easier way to weigh them. Less than 30 seconds after putting the scale down, a little rooster would jump up and weigh himself. I'd record his weight, shoo him off and wait for the next one to jump on. I weighed three of them today this way. The average weight of these White Rocks rooster chicks was 1 pound 5.7 ounces. They are 6 weeks old.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Little Cottage?

Camera angle can mean so much. What appears to be a little country cottage is really an A-frame pig shed. The other side of the fence is mostly mud with a couple of very pregnant Tamworth sows wallowing in it. If my camera had not broken, I was going to take a photo from the other direction. This is one of the perennial plots (not mine) where I have my community garden at Codman Farm in Lincoln, Massachusetts, USA.

Chick update: At 4 weeks old today, the White Rock Roosters weighed an average of a little over 10 oz. each.

Note. My camera (Nikon Coolpix 950) broke! I don't have time to investigate or buy one before my daughters wedding. Any thoughts on what you love or hate about the camera you use would be appreciated for when I start the camera buying process. In the mean time no more baby chick update photos.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


I like okra a lot. I love the taste and I think its tropical looking flower is beautiful. It's not exactly a staple of a typical New England diet and I often meet people who have never eaten it. It's not consistently available here in the market so I try to grow it. During our very cool very wet spring this year, I had to seed it three times before I was successful. I sowed it once inside in pots where it failed and twice outside. I was successful the second time outside. What I've learned is it seems to need lots of warmth which is not surprising because it's native to Africa. I've found it needs warmth even more than tomatoes or peppers do. Now that cooler September weather has arrived I fear it will soon stop producing. It's produces enough to eat or add to soup occasionally, but I wish I had enough to freeze. My plan for next year is to try and start it again inside, but I'm planning on adding a propagation mat to my collection of garden toys and hope that I will have more success starting it inside and unless it's really hot, I'll probably wait an extra week after Memorial Day before setting it out.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Chicks 18 days old

The chicks are now 18 days old. They aren't old enough to go out on pasture yet, so we pull weeds from the garden and to give to them. They really love them and even eat the dirt. You can see in the photo below that they are starting to get their wing feathers.

Friday, September 01, 2006

White Rock Chicks

[[[ Sorry for the lack of posts. Things are busy in the garden, at work and most importantly I’ve been involved with my daughter’s wedding plans. The wedding will be in a couple of weeks and things are getting a bit hectic here.

After some hatchery and post office delays the chicks finally arrived two weeks ago... They are 125 White Rock rooster but a few seem to be something different. They are in a room in the barn that’s about 11 x 11 feet square. Chicks need an area where the temperatures are 90 degrees in part of the area the first week and can tolerate the temperature to be lowered 5 degrees each week for the first 6 weeks. To provide this temperature there are two heat lamps hanging in their enclosed area. They can self adjust their temperature by moving closer or further form the lamps. The chicks were two weeks old on last Tuesday.

Each week I plan to weigh a sample of the chicks and keep track of their weights. We’re also keeping track of how long it takes them to eat each 50 lbs of feed.

So far the weights are;
At one week, a sample of 10 weighed an average of 2.05 oz. each
At two weeks, a sample of 10 weighed an average of 4.45 oz each

From the weights you can see they more than doubled their weight during their second week.
I intended to take a photo of them today and brought my camera to the farm. Unfortunately I forgot to put the memory card back into the camera before I brought it with me. This photo from the first week will have to do for now.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Pastured Poultry - The Pen

One obvious problem being an urban agrarian is the lack of land. I squeeze what I can into my small suburban yard, grow plants where there’s a little sun, keep 4 laying hens and have a large community garden plot further out towards the country. Raising broiling chickens to fill my freezer would seem be out of the question. However, this will be the third year that I will be doing it. It requires finding a willing partner with some land. During the last two summers my friend Farmer Judy and I raised broiler chickens. The first year we raised 25 and the second year we raised 175 split between two batches of 75 and 100. I kept them for the first three weeks while they were in the brooder and then they went to her farm in southern Vermont for the next five weeks. The following year we raised 175 in two batches of 75 and 100 each. Judy won’t be doing it this year so I asked at the farm where I have my community garden, if I could raise broilers on my community garden plot. The answer was no, but one of the farm managers, Heidi was going to do pastured poultry and I discovered I could add my 25 into her batch and we would do them together. This was even better because figuring out how to make a coop or pen that I could transport to my garden plot would have been a challenge.

I’m hoping to chronicle my experiences and thoughts raising broiler chickens this year and over the last two years in a series of posts over the next few months. I plan on covering everything from brooding to butchering.

Once chicks are a few weeks old they do not need the extra heat supplied by their mothers or heat lamps and can go outdoors. For the most part commercially raised meat chickens never have the opportunity to ever be outside. They spend their entire lives indoors in cramped quarters in broiler houses with tens of thousands of other chickens. This is not the way I want the chickens I eat to be raised. Why I think this is better will be the topic of another post, but today’s post is about the shelter the chickens will have. Even though they roam and forage in the pasture during the day, they need a place that is safe from predators and weather to sleep in at night.

The first year Judy and I did chickens, I built a movable pen. This is a popular was to raise pastured poultry made famous by Joel Salatin. The pen has no floor and is moved to a new area of pasture each day, giving the chickens fresh pasture and leaving the droppings behind to fertilize the pasture. One of the problems with this idea was getting the pen light enough to move, but not so light as to fall apart. I built it 8x8 feet by 2 feet high. Sadly it ended up too heavy for us to move easily on hilly terrain AND it fell apart. It didn’t last long enough to even get a picture of it I then built two smaller pens half the size with the pieces from the broken first pen. That worked as far as the pens being easy to move and light, but we soon decided we didn’t like the pen idea. The pen required moving too frequently and the chickens seemed like they would be better off with more pasture. We started to let the chickens out of the pens during the day and only put then in at night. This seemed to work better and meant that the pens did not require moving as much because the dropping from the chickens during the day were not in the pen, but spread out over the pasture. This system is called day range. Ithe one that I prefer and has worked well for the last two years.

The chickens I am doing with Heidi this year will also be day-ranged. Last year Judy and I built a new pen for the chickens that we think worked well. In this picture it’s missing a tarp that would cover it if there were chickens living it. It’s bottomless and made on wooden runners. It needs a truck to pull it to new pasture space. It was moved about once per week to fresh pasture. By substituting clear plastic for the tarp, this pen can be also be used as a greenhouse to start seedlings in spring. The red thing inside is actually a cold-frame.

Below is the pen that was built for the chickens Heidi and I will do his year. It’s quite fancy and I heard it won a trophy in the local 4th of July parade. I think it’s solidly built and with its real wheels is very transportable. One change that I think I would have made if it were my pen, is that I would have not built a solid floor. A bottomless pen needs no shoveling out. I think I’d prefer to let gravity do the work of manure spreading. This year’s chicks haven’t arrived yet so I can’t really say how much cleaning out it will need. Things never go exactly as predicted anyway and time will tell what Heidi and I think worked well and what might be changed.

The new chicks are scheduled to arrive this week and I must say I’m excited and look forward to learning more about raising broilers on pasture. They are White Rocks. In the past I raised Cornish Cross chickens and I’m really curious as to the differences between the two breeds.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


If I could only grow one thing in my garden, it would be tomatoes. I've been eating them everyday for the last few weeks and also giving many away. Last night I picked about 12 lbs and made them into sauce to freeze. This year I've planted 50 plants in 14 varieties. Some of the heirlooms like Brandywine and the purples aren't quite ready yet. If I could only plant one type, I'd actually have to choose Early Girl for it's good taste, good and early yield and medium size. I really like Brandywine too but it is a late tomato in my garden. I'm also really enjoying Sungold a lot. It's an orange cherry tomato. I thought I only liked red tomatoes, but Sungold has changed my mind. The varieties that I planted this year are;
black prince
cherokee purple
costoluto fiorentino
matts wild
old german
ox heart
parks whopper
unlabeled mystery (turned out to be a medium orange tomato)

Sunday, August 06, 2006


Today is Weekend dog blogging over at Sweetnicks. Check it out

Spigariello in the field (no the dog is not named spigarello)

Spigariello with some of today's harvest

Spigariello serving suggestion (just kidding. It needs cooking. )

Spigarello is a new vegetable for me this year. A friend gave me some seeds and I tried them even though I'd never actually eaten spigarello before. It turned out to be easy to grow and tasty. I planted it the same time as I planted broccoli. For cooking separate the leaves and stems and only cook the leaves. The stems are too tough to bother with. To me it tastes kind of like kale, but also with a definite broccoli taste. It is supposed to form little florets, but mine didn't. I'm guessing that might be because it's been too hot. I'm planning on freezing any extra I have for winter soups and growing it again next year. In the meantime it's been producing for weeks.

Monday, July 24, 2006


The homegrown food for today is zucchini.
Home grown zucchini, like Rodney Dangerfield, seems to get no respect. It’s the butt of jokes and people act like it’s harder to give away than a litter of kittens. It does have a habit of hiding under its leaves and growing too big which is a shame because, in my opinion, size DOES matter. Smaller is better for zucchini. I like zucchini best about an inch in diameter. Bigger zucchini can be used for zucchini bread. I also sometimes make a casserole of zucchini, mozzarella, breadcrumbs and tomato sauce with zucchini up to 2 or so inches in diameter, but my favorite zucchinis are the very little ones that are smaller than are available in stores in the USA.

I picked my first zucchini this weekend. It was even smaller than the one inch diameter size I prefer, but you know how it is with zucchini, if you look away for a moment, it may double in size, so I grabbed it while it was still small. I decided to stuff the flower with a mixture of some feta, breadcrumbs and milk, then dipped it in egg and fried it. I would have preferred goat cheese for the stuffing, but had none. The zucchini I simply sliced and sautéed for a few minutes in olive oil. Together with some sliced tomatoes, it was a nice lunch.

Stuffed zucchini blossoms are a great way to use the flowers, especially the male blossoms that aren’t going to form zucchinis anyway. Just be sure to leave some male flowers on the plant so the female flowers can get pollinated. If you’re wondering which is which, the females have tiny zucchinis at the base of the flower. The males do not.

Variety: Franchi Seeds – Striato d’Italia ( Italian Striped)
I like this variety because it has ridges and nice flowers and of course because it tastes good.

Home Grown Dinner

I’ve decided to try and feature something I grow, catch, forage or harvest each day and see how long I can go with that theme. I’ll certainly interrupt the theme if a wild turkey plops itself in front of my camera and sits still or something interesting happens that I actually get a photo of, but I am curious just how many things I actually do grow and how long I can go with this theme.

Today’s feature was to be spigariello, but I’ll save that for another post because the photo does not do it justice. Today’s post instead will be the medley of the home grown dinner that includes the spigariello.

Everything on my dinner and salad plate I grew or caught, except for some butter, olive oil and salt which you can’t actually see, but it’s there improving what already tastes good. I enjoy and have lots of fun with the challenge of cooking meals mostly from things I grew, or in this case caught also. It’s kind of like a game for me to fashion a meal from what I can get from the garden or raise. I’ve added the categories of catching or foraging, because it’s my game so I can make up the rules. What you see some is of the striped bass that I froze after the Boston Harbor fishing expedition baked with a little butter and parsley, the first garden tomatoes with olive oil, basil and salt, and spigariello, boiled and then sautéed in a little olive oil. The spigariello is not actually as dark as it looks the photo. At the top of the plate is my favorite part of this meal. It's new Yukon Gold potatoes mashed with butter in which sage has been sautéed. The salad plate consists of romaine lettuce and a few Sweet 100 and Sungold cherry tomatoes, dressed with a little olive oil and salt. What follows is the recipe for the potatoes, It's so simple that it's really more of a concept than a recipe

Recipe: Potatoes with sage butter.
Boil some potatoes. Remove the skins.
Melt some butter in a sauté pan.
Chop up some fresh sage and sauté it in the butter for a few minutes until the butter just begins to start getting brown, but doesn’t actually turn brown. This will infuse the butter with the sage flavor.
Add the butter and sage mixture to the potatoes and mash.
Add salt to taste.

I purposely left the amount of sage butter to use out of this recipe. It’s a matter of taste and conscience. I used about a tablespoon of butter for one serving and it seemed right to me. I swear it tastes even better with new freshly dug potatoes, but it’s actually good with any old potatoes you may have around.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Fava Beans

After seeing a friend in Vermont grow fava beans a few years ago, I decided that I'd give them a try. Fresh fava beans are not often available in the store and I really like them so I figured why not grow my own. They are a cool weather crop and should be planted in Massachusetts as soon as the soil can be worked in the spring. I started mine indoors because the place I garden is often wet in the spring and doesn't get plowed until late. This year it was plowed early. I transplanted my seedlings and then it turned cold and very windy and we had record rainfall. The seedlings simply disappeared. I'm not sure whether the rain rotted them or the wind dried them up. About a month ago one weak little plant reappeared, or more likely grew from one of the original seeds that didn't germinate at the time of transplanting. What you are looking at in the photo is my entire fava bean crop of 2006 - one little plant with one little pod. I'm not giving up on favas. I hope to try them again next year.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Artichokes Day 118

I wasn't sure I'd ever see a bud on my artichokes, but one of the artichoke plants has just formed a bud. It's still very small even though it looks huge in the first photo. This is the first year I've ever tried artichokes. Although artichokes are certainly not a typical Massachusetts crop, I've seen them in other's gardens that know that it is possible. The plants must be tricked into thinking that they are in their second year when they are only really in their first year. Apparently this one has been fooled. You can see previous photos of the artichoke sprouting, on day 20 and on day 57 if you'd like to follow its progress. If I actually get to eat one of these artichokes this year I'll create a post of exactly the steps I followed.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

One Fish, Two Fish, Striped Fish, Blue Fish

I don’t know where the time goes. Lately, each day it seems I run out of time before I get a chance to blog., too much work, too many weeds, too much rain. Tuesday was a workday but I skipped out of that, got up at the ridiculous hour of 4 am and I went fishing with my brother. I was lucky and that night got to have fish for supper. Outside of sand sharks these were the largest fish I’ve ever caught. I won’t say how large because they seem to continue to grow larger and larger with each telling of the story. You can see for yourself below in a photo of my brother holding the two striped bass that I caught that were keepers and a closeup a bluefish I caught who is giving me the evil eye. I was so tired from getting up at 4am that I just baked the striped bass with a little butter and didn’t do anything fancy to it. It was yummy, but if I hadn’t been so exhausted I’d have headed over to Beyond Salmon to get a more interesting recipe. I gave some away and froze the rest of the filets. I really have little experience freezing fish and am curious to see what it tastes like in a few weeks after it has been in the freezer.

Friday, June 16, 2006

A Tomato is Born

If I could only plant one thing in my garden it would be tomatoes. Today I discovered the first tomato fruits starting to grow. They are both so young that their flowers haven't even fallen off yet. They are nowhere as big as they look, are pea-sized and barely noticeable if you walk in the garden. The one above is a Costoluto Fiorentino. It's one of the varieties that I grew from seed. and is a new one for me this year. It's described as a big, old-fashioned, misshapen, heavy, ribbed beef tomato from Florence, very meaty and ideal for slicing with fruits about 5 or 6 ounces. Its heavy ribs are certainly evident even so soon after planting.

Below is a very young, also pea-sized cherry tomato. The variety is Matt's Wild Cherry. I planted this variety last year. Its a good tasting prolific small red cherry tomato. It is one of the most tenacious tomato varieties I've ever planted. When other tomatoes are being attacked by blights and other things this variety kept going strong and it's doesn't seem prone to cracking. When I discovered cherry tomatoes in a row where I knew that I had not planted any cherry tomatoes it was always this variety. It ranges every where. It is the exact opposite of compact and bushy. It has a lot of personality. I always thought it would be a great tomato to train on an arched arbor. I like this tomato a lot but now plant it on the ends of the rows where I can keep a close eye on it. The fruits are small, tomato red and are perfect for adding to salads or eating as you work in the garden.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Too Much Rain

Middlesex county in Massachusetts where I live was declared a federal disaster area May 12th due to flooding and it's been raining even more since then. I've planted green beans twice, chard and zinnia seeds, but haven't seen any sprouting in a few weeks and think they have rotted. It's just too cool and wet. For some reason the winter and summer squash have actually sprouted. The tomatoes and peppers that were planted as seedlings are hanging on, but not really growing much in what seems like endless cool wet weather. Even though I planted my potatoes in a trench they are looking OK and haven't been attacked by Colorado beetles yet. Lettuce is the one thing that really seems happy, but even lettuce is looking a bit pale due to lack of sun. I took this photo at Codman Farm in Lincoln MA where I have my community garden. I remember it was taken on one of the few sunny days this spring and was unseasonably hot. These three ducks had found a little shade and were relaxing the afternoon away. The way one of them has his mouth open it looks like the are all having an afternoon conversation. Everyone I talked to is really tired of all the rain, mud and flooding, but these three fellows are probably rather happy with the very unusual spring weather we are having.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Two Wild Turkeys

Even though it rained yesterday, today and will again tomorrow I decided to go to my community garden, mostly just to putter and see what’s growing. I needed to bring some tomato cages that I’d been making from welded wire in my garage as my latest rainy day project. This time I remembered to bring my camera thinking I’d maybe take another photo of my verrrrry slooow growing artichokes or my flea bitten broccoli. On the way I spotted two turkeys by the road. My first thought was that I wished that I had my camera. In about a second or two it occurred to me that I actually DID have my camera. I pulled over and shot a few photos. Its times like this I really feel hindered by my 2 mega pixel, 3x zoom old camera. The turkey strutting with his back to me was just too far away to get a sharp image. I ended up using digital zoom just to make him bigger than a dot. The other turkey in the brush was very close to me, but it was dark and gloomy and I must have not been able to hold my camera still enough for the slower shutter speed. Even though the photos are not technically great, I’m really happy just getting them at all. I really like spotting wildlife and it’s such a bonus to be able to get a photo. I’ve seen wild turkeys before, but have never been as close to one as I was today.
Years ago there were no wild turkeys in Massachusetts. Now they are really becoming more common here.. From the hill I was standing on when I took the photos, the sky scrapers of Boston are visible and are probably about 7 or 8 miles away, as the crow flies. These two birds are almost urban dwellers. I found a site that has a nice FAQ about wild turkeys if you are interested in learning more about them.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Back to Blogging

I can't believe how long it's been since I've posted. I was usually posting in the evenings. Suddenly the sun is setting so late that there's not much time between the time it gets dark and when it's time to sleep. There were times I had my photo ready. There were times that I even started a post when either the phone rang or something else interrupted me. When I started blogging last November I intended to write about growing. Not much was growing, but I had time during the winter so I wrote. Now there's lots growing and I'm not writing. Hopefully I will be able to garden and blog in addition to all the other summer activities that I enjoy, and of course squeeze in a little time for the day job which fortunately is actually only 1/2 of a job.

My last post was about the flea beetles on my broccoli. I got lots of suggestions. I tried sprinkling with garlic powder and that seemed to help, but I think I would need to do that each day. This broccoli is in my community garden and I don't visit it daily. I once had luck with garlic powder to rid beans of insects, but those were in my own yard and I could apply it daily. Unfortunately after that it rained for 10 days. Because of it, I didn't go to my garden for a while and when I returned the beetles were much fewer. However, the broccoli looks terrible, has lots of holes and is stunted. I may try diatomaceous earth next . The broccoli is really a candidate for ripping out, but I figure I have two rows of it and it may be fun and educational to try diatomaceous earth on one row just to see if it works, so I know what to do next year. The garden is organic so it's not an option to just poison the little critters.
I'm not totally without broccoli however. The new little 8ft. by 42inch bed that I set up in my yard at home is doing OK. It only gets barely 6 hours of sun, so things aren't perfect, but I've eaten lots of lettuce from it and here's a photo of the first broccoli. It's such a contrast to the broccoli in my community garden. There's not even one hole in any of these leaves. I think one good thing about a new bed is that the pests haven't found it yet or maybe the chickens arfe helping with insect control. We'll see if the broccoli here looks this good next year.

So far I'm pleased with this new little bed. What's in it (starting from closest to the camera) is a row of broccoli, two rows of romaine lettuce and a few red lettuces, another row of broccoli, then an empty space where the spinach was a failure, then a double row of raab, then a row of parsley. I was happy that I made it 42 inches wide and not the 48 inches that I was tempted to do. I'm only 5'3'' but have no trouble reaching the middle. What also worked well was the 2 foot chicken wire. At first I wasn't sure it was tall enough to deter chickens and dogs. Two feet has been enough to give the dogs a visual cue not to run through the bed and the chickens do not go over it. I believe that it's the floppiness of it that deters the chickens from jumping up on it. Two feet is nice because I don't need to open it up to weed or harvest. I just reach over. There is one problem though. The chickens have eaten some things through the wire. One broccoli plant disappeared. It was probably pulled through when it was young. I really should move the wire out a few inches to help prevent more chicken damage.