I love chicken. Roasted chicken, baked chicken, fried chicken, chicken kabobs, jerk chicken, pesto chicken, chicken… OK, OK — I may be sounding a bit like Bubba on “Forrest Gump” — but I get his passion. There are so many ways to love chicken.
Xandy, if he had his way, would have nothing to do with the critters, save the three or so that we have for eggs. Here’s one now:
Xandy’s father Mark tried his hand at chickens for a while. He even had a chicken house built which stands on the property to this day.
After six years of prodding, Xandy has decided to give into my chicken obsession and we are venturing into raising meat birds. We are starting small, of course, as we have no idea how this is going to work.
For the past month, we have been raising 24 Red Rangers in the barn until they are large enough to be outside. Today, one by one, we scooped them up and let them into their new home outside the barn. The scooping process was a story in itself, as we ran from place to place chasing the damn things. I kept telling them that they’d like where they were going so they needed to calm the hell down. They finally listened:
Yup. The thing is electric. We checked it with a voltage meter, but Mark’s dog Molly let us know by touching her nose to it just how powerful the charge is. The chickens, however, barely noticed. As Xandy said, they are “fully insulated.”
After 20 minutes or so they learned the ropes (or the fence, I suppose). They have figured out water and the shade/element hut that Xandy built.
Now all we have to worry about are the cows. Let’s hope they figure out the fence and don’t go letting loose the chickens.
There is a joke that floats around in the summertime in Maine: When zucchini season hits, lock your car doors because someone will probably drop some off in your seat if you are not careful.
The joke originates from the fact that even one zucchini plant will not only grow an inordinate number of zucchinis, if left on the vine, those zucchinis become MASSIVE. Here are a few of mine that I left one extra day by accident:
This year I have tried to become as creative as possible in cooking with zucchini. I found this FABULOUS chocolate zucchini cake recipe that I have definitely added to my repertoire. I traded out the walnuts and added chocolate chips, swapped 3/4 C applesauce for 3/4 C of the oil (leaving the other 3/4 C as is), put it in a bundt pan, added a bit of cooking time, topped with a delicious chocolate glaze and VOILA, one zucchini down.
I have also added shredded zucchini to my morning scrambled eggs. I have added it diced to chili. I have thrown slices on the grill. Anything that I could think of to use up this delicious but prolific veggie.
My favorite recipe BY FAR, however, would have to be this Stuffed Zucchini Egg Roll recipe that I threw together in a desperate “What the hell am I going to do with all of this???” moment. While the typical Italian type stuffed zucchini is good, I wanted to use more of the ingredients that I had lying around: freshly harvested garlic, carrots, cabbage, and green onions; frozen ground pork from last year’s pig; fresh ginger left from some Indian dishes that I have been experimenting with. Those ingredients screamed EGG ROLL to me — and why not stuff the filling in zucchini for a healthier treat? Why not, indeed.
The resulting recipe was not only unbelievably delicious, it was also incredibly healthy as our pork tends to be quite lean.
STUFFED ZUCCHINI EGG ROLLS
2 – 3 medium (massive type may not fit in your dish) zucchini with seeds scooped out
1 lb ground pork
1/2 head medium cabbage
2 carrots, shredded
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1″ fresh ginger, minced
2 scallions (mine had started to become onions, so I used the whites, too)
1 Tablespoon oyster sauce
2 1/2 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce
1 teaspoon (or so depending on your spice tolerance — I am an “or so” kind of person) Sriracha
Preheat oven to 350º
Cut zucchinis in half and scoop out seeds. Measure out and cut evenly to fit in a 9 x 13″ glass baking dish.
Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a large bowl. (I used a potato masher) Then fill the zucchini with a heaping amount of the mixture rounding the tops slightly over. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Make sure that the pork is cooked through before eating.
That’s it. Easy. Delicious. And a nice way to use some of that zucchini up.
I see that our gazillion tomato plants are starting to ripen…hmmm, I wonder what I will do next…
About a week ago, a crashing noise at 3 AM caused my husband to leap from bed and run outside. At least that is what he told me, and I have to trust him as since summer began my sleep has resembled more of that of a coma victim than the skittish animal that I normally mirror.
That early morning Xandy found the saw mill had finally fallen over.
I took in a quick breath of air when he told me. He responded intuitively with, “Don’t worry, Hon. No cows. No kids. We are all good.”
Over the past few years every time my husband and his father went to set a log to “prop up” the mill, which with each successive year has looked more like the Leaning Tower of Pisa than a sturdy building, we would discuss the fact that the cows liked to hang out in its shade and were prime targets for a collapse.
“And what happens when Kitt gets older and she takes her cousins down to play?”
“Hopefully they can outrun a falling building.”
Now those points are moot. The building is down. And out of respect I thought I would spend a bit of time talking about the history of it since we are all a bit saddened by its loss.
The building was constructed in the early 1950s by Charles Orman Brown (affectionately known as “Orm”), my father-in-law Mark’s grandfather and the Brown that purchased this farm. A Lane #2 left-handed sawmill built in the late 1880s or 90s made up the “guts” of the building, and chopped off more than one finger I am told. Mark and Xandy both have all of their fingers, a miracle really as there is NO WAY this thing was OSHA approved. The place was perfect to film a bloody horror flick, big open saw blade and all.
Orm, a machinist by trade and owner of a foundry in a neighboring town, used the mill for a variety of side business ventures. Over the years the mill has done everything from make cedar shingles, to dowels to wrap communication wire, to mini baseball bats, to siding for houses. Below are just a few of the many products created at the mill:
Periodically, rooms have been added on to the original building. Xandy remembers a small sawdust room being added in the 1980s, while Mark talks of his brother Tim not only helping Orm saw, but also helping him build rooms off to the side much earlier than that as Orm passed away in 1967.
Some of the last wood sawed in the mill was used as flooring in our bathroom. As I look at it now even I, who has only lived here for a few short years, grow nostalgic. The book shelf that was one of the first gifts Xandy made me was built with wood from the mill as was the puppet house he built for Kitt. I am sure that everywhere on this farm there are creations that are in some way linked to the mill which once looked like this:
and has now been reduced to this:
I am sure that there is something in here about time and its inevitability, but I would rather live in this image than think about that right now.
So, Angel, unfortunately, did not make it. Her death is not really a shock, I suppose. Chickens are fragile creatures.
A couple of years back, I remember a man and his son stopped at the farm. Frantic.
“Do you know anything about chickens?” The father had pleaded. “We bought a bunch, and they are dying.” He opened his trunk to reveal about fifty chicks, half of which were dead. I watched as each minute a chick would stop and die. I had no answer for him then, and I have no answer now.
Things get sick.
“It’s O.K.” Kitt said when I told her about Angel.
Her reaction is also not shocking. As we live on a farm, death is a natural part of the landscape. Last year’s pig? She’s in the freezer. That steer you named? The steak you ate for dinner.
I am not sure, however, of what her actual four-year-old concept of death is. Honestly, I am not even sure what my forty-one-year-old concept of death is. Most days, I believe that we are so much more than these suits of flesh that connect us to this plane. Others, I wonder if death is the end. If that last breath we take is our last connection to anything.
“I could never live on a farm,” my mother told me as she tried to nurse the chicken back to health. “All of these animals have little souls. I don’t know how you do it.”
I have thought a lot about this living on the farm. I think about it when I watch our herd leave an older cow to babysit while the rest go to graze. I think about it when I look into the lamb’s eyes as I feed him hay and pet him. I think about it when I have to knee one of our bucket fed calves back because she thinks my vagina is food.
And then I think of Kitt.
I am jealous of her, really. My first taste of death came the summer after my 7th grade year when a classmate was killed in a car accident. Having been at our camp on Moosehead Lake for the week, I had been incomminucado. I learned about her death only after the funeral. I spent the next week or so expecting everyone I knew to die. If death could happen to her, it could happen to anyone, at any time. I started imagining the horrific demises of all of my loved ones. My father died being electrocuted while trying to fix a paper machine in the mill. My mother died driving home a little too fast on the highway. My sister died crossing the street. Everyone I looked at faded, and I was left with how each would leave me.
Kitt will realize, as she grows, that we all live. We all serve our purpose. And we all die. This idea will become a thread woven into her concept of life, as it is an integral part of my husband’s concept. While he and I may disagree about what happens after this life, I have to admire him for how he lives this one.
I told Kitt this morning that it is time to let the other chickens out of the coop, as they were big enough to start grazing. “Maybe we can get a cat cage so that the cats won’t kill the chickens,” she said. “We can put food and water in it so that they will be all right, too.”
Today I realize that we are all as fragile as that young hen we lost, and while some days force us to realize that death just happens, others have us holding it back in a small wire cage. Leaving it food and water, of course, because we wouldn’t want it to have to look elsewhere to be fed.
Spring has finally…well, you know the cliché, and I thought that it would be nice to update everyone as to what is happening here at LongMeadows Farm. So earlier this evening, I took my camera and ventured around the farm to see what I could find.
I first passed my husband Xandy who, even as I write this, is busy installing a new deck, which I have to add is his idea of relaxing on this Father’s Day.
I walked to check on our three raised beds that we put in last year to give our larger garden a break (more on that later).
I then walked up by the pool to check on our third bed.
We also have a 1/6 acre garden plot that had been planted by the Browns for over a decade. After a couple of years of pleading, Xandy finally assented to DO SOMETHING about the noxious weeds that had overtaken the plot.
He planted winter rye which we left last year to grow. Earlier this spring we grazed the rye and then Xandy tilled the land twice. What was left is the most amazingly rich soil that I have ever seen. Although, I have to admit that is not saying much considering I have only been gardening for five years.
We have decided to plant half of this plot each year on a rotational schedule. Today I planted crimson clover on the left side, along with in between rows of the rest of the garden.
I then walked back by Xandy, out front to check on our garlic. I found my dog relaxing on the front lawn.
Our garlic, I noticed, is doing fabulously.
It was while I was picking a few weeds out of the garlic, that I found an interesting purple flowered vine with a hard, round pod that I wondered if Xandy could identify. I walked back to the deck and asked if he knew what it was.
“No idea,” he said and proceeded to pull apart the pod.
It was hard, and almost felt like a nut.
“It’s wild cucumber, I think,” he said, and then took a bite out of the pod.
“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?” I yelled back at him, “That thing could be poisonous.”
“Nah, poisonous stuff tastes bad.” He said, and took another bite. “Hey, this tastes good. I think we should cultivate it.”
I went inside and frantically searched Google and our Audubon Field Guide for answers. I kept listening outside to be sure that I still heard noises from him, and I wondered where we had put the poison control number. Then I found this:
The plant could be toxic for these guys, however:
So I don’t think that we’ll cultivate it just yet.
That’s if from the farm for this evening. Haying starts tomorrow. Xandy mowed a swathe tonight to be wrapped for silage tomorrow. I guess I won’t see him until September. Hopefully, he won’t eat random plants until then…
It is snowing here in Maine, again, and I am bored.
So bored that I have been cooking since noon when I got home. So bored (as my husband pointed out) that I made my own Italian seasoning. I told him that I had to, because I wanted to try a new meatball recipe and it called for Italian seasoning, and we didn’t have any. He took this instead as a sign of boredom. I think that happened when I pulled out the spice grinder.
You have probably gathered by now, that when I am bored (or shut in by an impossibly long winter) I cook. While it may not be good for my waistline, I maintain that it is good for my soul.
Here are some of the treats that I have made so far:
I am going to have to move away from the kitchen if I am ever going to be able to keep fitting into my clothes. If it keeps looking like this out, though
So, that damn Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, as most of us know, and we have been in the throes of a long and frigid winter. For one amazing Saturday we were teased by mid-40 degree sunshine, only to have it ripped away from us. This Saturday our thermometer registered -5 degrees (and that was in the sun).
Today is March 2nd and we decided that enough was enough, shadow or no shadow — today we would tap our maple trees. It is a rite of Spring. We put holes in five of the trees on our front lawn which usually (depending on the year) provides sap to make enough syrup to last throughout the year. I have to admit, Xandy usually taps the trees, but this year I thought it would be a fun family activity so I invited myself along.
A photographer from the local paper stopped in the dooryard just as we were finishing up and had us pose for some photos.
“I’d rather take pictures of people doing this than shoveling snow,” he said. We nodded with the understanding of just how God-awful this winter has been.
As the photographer drove away, Xandy had an idea.
“You know I have always wanted to tap the telephone pole. Wouldn’t that be hilarious? People would drive by and wonder what the hell we were doing.”
Thankfully, we don’t have any more tubing, or that photographer would have had another pic for the paper. I shook my head walked towards the barn as Xandy and Kitt went off to “feed things.”
Just ask my husband. This morning, while trying to get lunch ready for work I dumped 1/2 a cup of coffee in the spoon drawer, and then when I sat down to eat my toast (with homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam) I dropped the last bite of that on the floor (yes, I still ate it — no, I didn’t think about what has been on our floor). This week I have cut my lip twice, once when I walked into the bathroom door, and the other when I lifted a bowl off the top shelf only to be smashed in the face by a stainless steel measuring cup. That one still hurts.
It should be no surprise to anyone, then, that I am not athletically inclined in any way. I bring this up, as being from Maine and having lived for over 10 years in Colorado, everyone assumes that I ski. I chuckle a bit when I am asked and reply with something like, “Ski, are you kidding me? Have you seen me WALK? I tripped UP the stairs this morning.”
O.K., O.K., that is a bit of an exaggeration, I tripped up the stairs yesterday morning, regardless, I have only been downhill skiing once about ten years ago, and I barely left the bunny slope.
My father is nothing like me — check him out in a ski race some years back
While I do not ski, I do love the outdoors. My husband is well aware of this, and two years ago surprised me with a pair of cross-country skis.
“You said once that you wanted to try it,” he said, “and I had no idea what to get you.” I was honestly ecstatic. It then proceeded to rain all that winter. Before this winter, I had been on the skis twice.
So, I won’t go into too much detail about my first time out this season to Quarry Road in Waterville. This is an AMAZING place by the way. I walk the trails often, but being a newbie skier, I fell A LOT when I tried the ice-covered trails a few weeks ago (before the last storm).
This past weekend, I decided to put my fear aside and enjoy the sun. I pulled out the skis, rounded up the dog, and I headed out into the front pasture. Below are a few of my photos:
It turns out that I LOVE cross-country skiing on fresh snow. The best part of skiing in our back forty — no big hills and no other people. I think I am becoming a misanthrope in my old age. Hell, I must be one — who even USES the word “misanthrope”? Anyway, as I am writing this, we are getting about another foot of the white stuff. I sense another outdoor adventure coming on.
On another note, Kitt just got glasses. I’ll update you all soon!
Winter has brought a few changes to the farm, and to this blog. Mostly — the winter doldrums (and the start of a new school year) had insidiously worked together to stop my blogging. Well, NO MORE!
First, I would like to welcome you to the new site. Yes, I know, it looks much like my previous site, but please be sure to look again. I have merged the blog with our farm site, so now we are a “one-stop shop” for all things beefy. Be prepared for more updates on farm living, and hopefully soon, new offerings from LongMeadows Farm.
This winter has not been that exciting. The opposite of exciting, in fact. The most interesting thing we have done this winter is spend a Saturday night camping in the kitchen. We pitched a tent and cooked red-hot dogs and s’mores by the fire. You non-Mainers may not understand the appeal of the red-hot dog, but believe me, they are a SPECIAL treat. Kitt asks for them by name, thanks to my father.
So today is a snow day. As I sit here writing, I am watching a steady stream of heavy snow pass by the window, covering the bare patches that this winter’s rain and ice storms have left. Even though all I really wanted to do today was sit on the couch and stream Disney flicks, I took Kitt out for a stroll and some sledding.
Part of the real reason for the walk was to check out what is finally finished — THE COVERED BRIDGE! My father-in-law and Xandy completed the thing last week, and before you do the math in your head — yes, it was January in Maine.
We finished with some sledding by the river.
Wonderful snow day…and a wonderful start to this new incarnation of the blog. Spring is coming. I know this because we have ordered our seeds. More on that later!
Summer’s bounty has arrived, and I, like many others who have a garden, am trying to figure out what to do with some of the veggies that I have oodles of.
As I have mentioned before, this is a bumper cucumber year. I have already tried my hand at refrigerator pickles. Now, I have decided on Dill Relish — that way I can also put to use a lot of that dill that has gone to seed. I have made Sweet Veggie Relish in the past, but never dill. So here are some pics of my experiment.
After a 15 minute boiling-water canner — I had about 14 pints of dill relish. I think that should last us a while. A long while.
I started the relish and salsa canning around 10 AM. I finished around 4 PM.