Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The Food Chain

After admitting my mashed potato sandwich shame, I hope to redeem myself with this, my first completely home grown meal out of the vegetable patch -

It's only a small harvest, but I hope it will be the first of many.

Vegetables are forever miraculous to me. Plant a seed and pay it even a small amount of attention and hey presto - food! It's extra miraculous this year considering I did all the wrong things: planted late into not-very-well prepared soil, planted too close together, watered sporadically, and weeded only occasionally. I'm paying the price now. The cucurbits have powdery mildew, the lettuce bolted, pigeons got my early peas, tomatoes have split, and the potatoes have scab.

And yet there's still stuff to eat. The vegetable patch produces despite my haphazard and random interventions.

And, not only is there enough for our dinner, but there's enough to share with the animals. The dogs like the carrot and bean ends, the horses like the carrot tops and some of the beet leaves in their evening meal. The chickens share the beet leaves with the horses and enjoy any tomatoes that are too squishy for us. Peelings go out in the compost for a final once-over by the chickens, and the worms eat the rest.

Add to the harvest some home raised leftover chicken and it's a wholesome meal. More provencale than cordon bleu but respectable. And we won't starve. Nor will the animals. At least until the first frost.

Speaking of mouths that need feeding, we have a new chicken. Our friends Tim and Megan had adopted some ex-laying hens from a battery unit. Over time each died of old age and only Flossie was left. She was a lonely chicken. When they came for lunch last Sunday, they brought her along to join our flock.

Flossie had other ideas -

She flatly refused to go to bed with the other brown hens. I came in from my evening chores to find her "roosting" next to Mike's chair. As I've never known a chicken that would use a litter tray, Flossie had to be carried out to the hen house where she could sleep, and poop with reckless abandon. She's not quite accepted her new outdoor living arrangements, but she has got smarter at roosting where she wouldn't be noticed -

Behind the porch door. For the moment we're compromising. Flossie goes to bed behind the door and when it gets dark and all the other chickens are in the hen house, I carry her out and place her on a perch where she stays with the others until morning.

It's getting dark so I'd better move her now, on my way out to walk the dogs. Then I want to make dessert - zucchini bread with the zucchini from today's harvest. The dogs can have the crusts and there will be enough left over for the gamekeepers' coffee break tomorrow. Everyone's happy.


Poppy Cottage said...

Fantastic harvest. I have just washed some Portland fleece. Must sort out that carding day. There is no phone reception in your garden!! Lil off to the stud tomorrow!!!!!

Paula said...

That is a very sexy extension cord reel that Flossie is hanging out next to. Bet you didn't think I'd see it. Poor baby- I wonder if your friends let her hang out with them and she got used to human company?

I'm doing pretty well so far in the food from the garden department, but I'm not so sure about this fall and winter. I sure am going to try though!

Middle Cottage Diary said...

Such a clever hen, obviously indulging in some luxury after her harsh life so far.

Jennifer Montero said...

Colette - I have one more fleece to finish too. Good luck to Lil.

Paula - The extension cord is all part of our overall decor theme: peasant chic. More of the former and less of the latter obviously.

Floss was well loved at her last home and has learned to associate good things with being around people. And she's been suffering a bit of bullying while the others get used to her.

MCD - I'm not sure living in our house is any better (or cleaner) than the barn system she came from! But I do spoil her with extra nice tidbits.

Karen Thomason/Gordon Setter Crossing said...

I never knew chickens had such funny personalities, until I came to your blog. It's always entertaining here! Good harvest.....doesn't matter how much.....just that you grew it and ate it! Good job!

Wendy said...

Awesome harvest dinner! We haven't had a meal comprised wholly of things from our garden, but with an addition here and there from the farm stand or Farmer's Market, we've been enjoying "harvest meals", too. What a great time of year!

Love the plate, by the way ;).

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

And I thought we were the only ones who let chickens in the house. (And by 'we' I mean 'Kevin.') I hope Flossie adjusts.

I'm glad I don't have to make a meal out of what my garden is giving me so far. It would be a couple of cherry tomatoes and a lot of mint. So I'm damn impressed with your meal.


This is the cutest chicken post i've ever seen. Flossie is one girl who knows what she wants. I love this chicken.

Jennifer Montero said...

Karen - Thanks for the encouraging words. I've been sneaking over to your blog to get my fill of cute puppy pictures - they're growing fast!

Wendy - Even a small harvest is very rewarding. It sounds like you have a good farmer's market near you to extend your harvest.

Glad you like the plates - we buy them at the Gamekeeper's Fair (like a country fair). Mike draws the line at eating off plates with pictures of pheasants staring at him, but he's cool with chickens.

Tamar - You'll notice Flossie's next to Mike? He claims he never saw her come in but he's just like Kevin. Maybe they should start a support group for secret indoor chicken fanciers. (OK.. maybe they need a better name that doesn't sound like weird porn...). Floss is still sleeping behind the door.

SPP - I will tell Flossie you enjoyed it! She's not a looker but she makes up for it with personality.

kevin F. said...

Mike and I attended the same school... "Give a pretty hen a warm place to sleep and she will love you for the rest of her life." The man can't help himself, it's evolutionary!
Kevin F.

Dog Hair in my Coffee said...

I LOVE your rooster plate. That is awesome! And Flossie looks just like my Butterscotch (or renamed "Mrs Feathers" by my neighbor, for some reason!) Chickens do, indeed, have some great and unusual personalities. I think that's part of the reason I like keeping them so much. Give Flossie an extra tidbit or two today from me!
I love your blog.

Jennifer Montero said...

Kevin - Admitting it is the first step.

DHimC - Your chickens have some great names (I'm partial to Mr. Conflakes...) Glad you're enjoying the blog. Your post just reminded me Flossie is still behind the door waiting for me to put her to bed now.