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July 2012

The Inglorious Incarceration of Little Miss Broody Pants Day 2

BP’s sisters keep her company.
When I consulted the web for advice about how to remedy my broody hen problem I was surprised to find just as many articles bemoaning the fact that broodiness cannot be inducedas articles explaining how to cure it. As it turns out, the brooding instinct has been bred out of many chicken varieties in order to increase egg production. Most hens have no interest in sitting on a clutch for 21 days, nor in protecting any resulting offspring. A broody bird, on the other hand, will sit stubbornly until she perishes or her eggs hatch, or until she is coaxed out of her broody state by other means.
Which brings us to our ‘problem’ hen.
Day 2
An Apology Tomato
Little miss BP survived her first night in lockdown and accepted, though somewhat reticently, my early morning Apology Tomato. To my surprise, the ladies were far less forgiving. They threw me resentful looks and hovered near her while making little clucking noises, clearly upset by her continued confinement.
“It’s one thing to lock her up for a minute to teach her a lesson about sharing,” I heard one say, “but to keep her in there all night? Who knows what else these people are capable of!”
Not the proper time, I’m guessing, to mention to the flock our plans to buy a chest freezer in the fall.
But the whole episode was overshadowed by the arrival of Hen House 3 which The Husband rolled ceremonially across the lawn on a garden wagon. The hen yard erupted into an excited frenzy.
Hen House 3
HH3 is The Husband’s Coop de Résistance. He not only constructed it in a single day (recall the weeks long Château de Ferrières ordeal?), he managed it without a single trip to the hardware store AND without taking any measurements (which may explain why it ended up a tad gigantic for the three little hens it was built for).
When I brought the Silkies out to see their new home, attitudes in the hen yard cooled.
“Oh for crying out loud, it’s for those things?” the ladies grumbled. They assembled in the dirt near BP for huffy afternoon dust baths and to compiled a list of our deficiencies. In other words, things returned to near-normal.
Dust bathing with BP
Though not entirely so: when we closed the Silkies up in their new coop at dusk BP was in her fluffed-up brooding pose making the endless puk-puk-puk sound a mother hen uses to sooth her clutch.

Mark my words: there will come a day when this behavior results in much rejoicing.  In the meantime, I’ll probably have to make a lot of Apology Tomatoes.
To be continued…

The Inglorious Incarceration of Little Miss Broody Pants Day 1

BP sitting. Again.

There’s been a major upset in the hen yard and it’s called Little Miss Broody Pants: The Cranky Hen. For a week she’s hogged the nesting box entirely for herself and has disallowed egg deposits to the point where the Ladies have had it up to their combs with her nonsense and started pecking out her feathers. Extracting her from the box threw her into a full-on tizzy and letting her sit meant the other hens were laying eggs all over the place. Not to mention the danger of Little Miss Broody Pants becoming dehydrated [or starving] while she waited for a clutch of unfertilized eggs to hatch.
This was becoming a problem of diabolical proportions.

Day 1
According to World Wide Web the best way to snap a persistently broody hen back to her senses is to completely eliminate the opportunity to nest. No bedding whatsoever for at least three days. I bee-lined to the nesting box and took a hard look at Miss Broody Pants.
“You’re not going to like this but it’s for your own good.” I told her.
“You’re upsetting my children,” she replied.
Little Miss Broody Pants, in the clink.
I unearthed the dog kennel from the back corner of the garage and parked it under the maple in the hen yard. A stick through the bars for a roost; an old plastic dish zip-tied to the sidebars for water; a flowerpot to the other side for chick chow. I returned to the nesting box.
“You don’t have children,” I said and scooped her out before she knew what hit her.
Word of Broody Pants’ trip to the slammer spread through the flock like wild fire. Hens came running from the farthest regions to gawk. Even The Dog stood outside the fence with her mouth hanging open, horrified by the reappearance of that old kennel and unable to believe what I had just done.

Gathering ’round for an impolite gawk.

Broody stood motionless in her cell with her beak high. “You can’t keep me locked up forever,” she whispered, defiant. “My people will mobilize.”

“I wouldn’t count on it, BP. I’m afraid you burned that bridge days ago.” I walked sadly away while the girls made loud snarky comments about restored order and how long overdue it was for certain hens to learn their place in the yard.

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…

   To be continued…

The Humble Radish, 3 Ways

The humble radish.
Not long ago I made a peevish reference to radishes in a post and received reader comments and e-mails suggesting I’d missed the point – that radishes are not the bitter, moody root I made them out to be.
I wondered: have I paid this veg its proper due? Maybe not. Perhaps there were other applications for the peppery raphanus sativus aside from the radish rose. I googled ‘radish recipe’ and got more than three million results; this was going to take awhile, particularly since the recipe would have to conform to the 10-mile Challenge. And also not taste disgusting. I hunted through scores of sites and from that endeavor the following three dishes came to pass.
In the process I learned a lot about the radish. Did you know they are an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, folic acid, and potassium? And radishes have a long history of medicinal uses, particularly for an upset stomach? That ancient tomb paintings show black radishes being used as payment in Egypt during the construction of the pyramids? Or that radishes were so highly regarded in ancient Greece that wealthy aristocrats wore little gold radish replicas around their neck for good luck?
Now you know.
Radish Soup.
Radish Soup
Of the three recipes we made this is my favorite. Turns out radish soup, at least in this configuration, is utterly delicious. The yogurt adds a wonderful creamy element that cools the root’s heat. My soup didn’t turn out the pretty pink color depicted on the recipe link because I used my own vegetable stock which is quite dark and hearty. Yes, the recipe turned out so tasty I will make this soup again. (quick note: I added the potato back into the broth before pureeing it as opposed to separating them as instructed in the recipe.) See the Recipe.
Ingredient Sources:
potato and onion: Horsford Farms, Weedsport NY
bay leaf: from The Husband’s herb garden
vegetable stock: mine! Made entirely from farmer’s market vegetables a few weeks ago then vacuum sealed in 1 cup batches and frozen;
yogurt: Wake Robin Farms, Jordan, NY
radish: from the garden of my friend Karen. Many thanks!

Raw Root and Cucumber Salad.
Raw Root and Cucumber Salad
This crunchy salad is not just quick and easy it also makes excellent use of what is in season at the market: carrots, cucumber and, of course, radishes. There is such an abundance of these vegetables right now that they are very inexpensive, so this salad cost pennies to make. We’re sure to make it again many times this summer as an easy, inexpensive veg- accompaniment for whatever else we’re cooking. Incidentally, had I any apple on hand I would have julienned it and tossed it in this salad for a sweet element. Here is the Recipe.
Ingredient Sources:
cucumber and radish: Hobbit Hollow Farm, Skaneateles, NY
apple cider vinegar: Owen Orchards, Weedsport, NY. This was an exciting find at last week’s farmer’s market! Really delicious vinegar for summer cooking.  
Roasted radish with black pepper and balsamic vinegar.
Roasted Radish
We followed the advice of readers and roasted ourselves a batch of radish grown by Hobbit Hollow Farms in Skaneateles. The Husband tossed the root in oil, sprinkled lightly with salt and baked until soft. I didn’t care for the squishy interior when the veg was done so he gave them a quick pan-searing and topped them with ground pepper. What people say about roasted radishes is absolutely true: it brings out the root’s natural sugars and eradicates the bitter flavor I’ve always associated with radish.
Ready for the oven.
These are three humble offerings among endless possible recipes. They’ve helped change my mind about radishes. The root is a lovely thing fresh from the ground, so different from the leather-skinned horrors I’ve encountered in the past. I’ve decided to give other hated vegetables another go. Maybe. Next on the list: Brussels sprout. Thankfully I’ve got a few more months to prepare before those awful interesting things are in season.

Karen’s radishes.


Lost & Fondue

Fresh fondue accoutrements at Lost & Fondue

I’ve been waiting for the grand opening. Patiently [well, sort of] just as the sign on the door entreated. This audacious endeavor of teahouse slash bistro meets vintage antique shop wherein nearly everything is simultaneously in use and for sale, how dare they. An intriguing idea and one just crazy enough to work. But the waiting…

Then, a stir in the Twittersphere: on July 4 @smallpotatos42 began posting pictures. Jazzy menu fare. I did a drive-by and a new sign on the door confirmed it: Lost & Fonduewas open for business.

If success of a business is measured by location then Lost & Fondue may look forward to a long and prosperous life. You will find this tiny eatery/antiquery in the Village of Skaneateles at the end of the garden path directly across the street from the public parking lot. Just follow the compass rose.

Inside I was greeted by a friendly fondouette who, upon learning this visit was my first, took me through the tea menu and the specials board and invited me to choose a table. French accordion played. The dining area was small but romantic; a blend of old world and vintage arranged for intimate conversations over shared plates. I felt conspicuous dining alone.

Lost & Fondue, 33 Jordan Street, Skaneateles NY

Tea was delivered. I ordered cheese fondue – of course, that’s what I came for – but I confess to a lustful appraisal of the menu with its titillating gourmet comfort soups and speciality sandwiches, and to gawking enviously when brie with tea poached chicken and pear piled on thick-cut bread was placed before the girl at the corner table. Next time. Abigail and Jonathan delivered the fondue; they described the process of combining local and traditional cheeses to achieve the desired consistency and flavor. Wake Robin Farm’s Caerffili was represented I was pleased to learn. Two plates of fresh neighborhood accouterments were placed beside the cheese pot. I dipped; took a nibble. Sharp, creamy. Deliciousness that clearly typifies this duo’s passion for detail. 

I could not tweet my happiness fast enough.

Yummy Grub

An October Rose broiler.

“Is that all you get to eat now?” a colleague asked me the other day as I munched on my customary jar salad lunch in the break room. I don’t volunteer updates about our 10-mile challenge outside this blog on account of people’s circumspect reaction, like they’re afraid I might share an un-flattering opinion about their food choices or worry I’m on the cusp of selling them Amway. But as my own eating habits have changed conspicuously and food is something people are oddly inclined to notice and inquire about, word has gotten out. “I couldn’t do it,” she added. “Bland food just isn’t my thing.”

Bland food isn’t my thing, either.  I think the biggest shortcoming in the buy-local-and-fresh movement is that its evangelists often fail to give flavor equal billing with the health and economic benefits, especially when flavor — more than any other value — will ultimately win over the masses. Me, I ignore these overplayed topics. Nobody likes being told what to eat or where to shop so I focus instead on what truly matters: yummy grub. Simply put, eating local and in-season is very delicious.
Byrne Angus beef plus green bean 
salad and cornmeal squash croquettes.  
But there are hazards.
Take last Saturday for example. I arrived late to the Skaneateles Farmers Market to discover all that was left were summer squash, green beans and radishes. That’s it. In season, sure, except I’ve hated summer squash and green beans since childhood and I don’t even know what radishes are good for except to be carved into little veggie tray roses that everyone thinks are cute and nobody actually eats. But the market is where I acquire most of my food so in desperation I bought all one vendor’s remaining summer squash and a quart of green beans from another; I passed on the radishes because a girl’s got to draw the line somewhere.
Meadowood Farms lamb kobobs
As I drove home it dawned on me that maybe this eat local idea was crap and dinner was definitely going to suck.
I should have anticipated The Husband’s unflinching acceptance of my paltry offering. He pulled a couple Byrne Angus steaks out of the freezer, consulted the Internet, and whipped up a summer green bean salad and a batch of cornmeal squash croquettes. Delicious. Saving the day. Reminding me not to judge food by past mutilations.
The Husband’s lamb, spinach and
homemade pasta dish made with
Meadowood Farms lamb sausage.
So yeah, my colleague was right: my family is eating lots of salad this summer. Lots. But tons of other stuff, too. Turns out this experiment has nothing to do with depravation or returning to some romantic time of old. It’s about luxury – making fresh, delicious food in good company; working together in a space that now serves a greater purpose than propping up the night’s pizza box.
I’m convinced no girl in the history of humankind has ever had food so good.

Evenings in the kitchen with The Girl have been plain awful.