Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tales of Carnage...Tales of Woe

"There's been an accident", she said as I stood on the other end of the phone, bracing myself for the extent of the bad news. I'd assured her when she took the chickens home with her that I would understand if anything happened, because I know, keeping chickens, things happen. I just didn't really think they WOULD happen. Not this time, not to my sweet baby girls.

"Something attacked the cage in the middle of the night. One chicken is missing, another one had her toes chewed off". I gulped. Please God, not little Peggy Sue. Not the one that I'd nurtured. Can't this chick get a break? She continued talking, but I didn't hear her anymore, I just felt numb, and my mind was racing. Could she heal? Would she heal? Would the other chickens welcome her back to the flock? Do I need to fashion a little wagon and pull her around like a Fisher Price toy!? Well, enough talking, thinking and wondering. I drove over to see what I could see. I was REALLY afraid to even look. I don't like carnage. I don't do well with carnage. I can't even look at my own cuts, let alone see one of my birds with no toes.

My friend was so traumatized by the whole thing. She felt incredibly bad, and I just kept trying to reassure her that if she hadn't watched them I'd probably have no hens left. She had two baby chickens herself, and she ended up giving me those. I left with 6, and I was coming home with 6. Well, I came home with 5, because we decided that Stubs (I know, I'm just SO original with animal names) would be better off in ICU at her house. My friend is an animal lover that should have been a vet. She has taken care of Stubs, now called Baby Stubs all week long. I was going to take pics of poor Baby Stubs, but I felt I'd respect her privacy. (That sounds good doesn't it? Truth be told, I never had time to make it back over to take the pics of carnage!) My friend is now going to keep Baby Stubs as her own. I'm happy to tell you that Baby Stubs is doing well. She's healed almost completely, and is able to walk long enough to get up and eat, and drink. She will be well taken care of. I on the other hand, will miss her terribly, and never be able to order Chicken Fingers at a restaurant again.

This has just been a week of carnage. Carnage. It's my new favorite word. Carnage abounds here. Take a look at that fifty pound bag of chicken feed. SOMETHING tore it completely open last night and spilled half of it on the ground. It had to be pretty strong. Three layers of heavy paper. I shudder to think what did that, and what it could do to the chickens one night. I keep hearing the music from "Psycho" playing in the background.

If there's one thing I've learned since I've moved from the big city is to move on. I moved on. I bought two new baby chicks! I swear I could buy a hundred and it wouldn't be enough. If they would just stay little!!

Look at these little cuties! These are the chickens that lay the blue and green eggs. The original breed is called Araucana, but these are like mutts, they will lay the Easter Egg colored eggs, but aren't a true full breed Araucana. Like my $5 manicure? So do I. I just can't type worth a crap.

Cue the "Psycho" music again. I'm not kidding you, every morning I wake up to carnage like this. Dead mice. Dead birds. Perhaps the photo below is the most disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.

I suppose the heads aren't tasty. I find it disturbing to wake up to a mouse head. Sometimes it's nothing but the mouth, nose and whiskers. See the little teeth still in it's mouth. Yeek! I have the goosebumps.

Well, now to the untrained eye, this might look like a hole in the ground. But it's not. It's a deer track. It's about 6 inches away from my corn that is three inches high. It gets better.

Deer scat. Scat is the official Park Ranger talk for poop. At this point, I feel the deer are taunting me. It's a slap in the face. Oh, but I have plans for them. Evil plans.

I went out and got this. Hopefully I'll make time to put it all up before they can totally desecrate my garden. I've never had deer troubles before. I'm losing sleep. I'm counting deer, and they are all laughing at me.

Don't worry little girl. I'll do my best to protect you.

Mouse heads. Mouse guts. Chewed off chicken fingers. Deer scat. This is scarier than them all. Aaron backing up the car in the driveway. Two years, six months and fourteen days til he gets his drivers license. Or at least he thinks so. I work at the License Branch, remember!!! CUE THE "PSYCHO" MUSIC!!!!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Camping Recipes

The Long Awaited Recipes......

Yes. Those are canned biscuits. Don't hate. Aaron still hasn't forgiven me. I just wanted to make it a lil'bit easier this time. The sausage gravy recipe that I'm about to share is from a book called 'Cooking From Quilt Country' by Marcia Adams. It's an Amish cookbook. Many don't know, but it was all because of the Amish that I live in the house I do. I'll have to share that story sometime.....This is my favorite gravy. I make it the day before we go camping and then just reheat it.

Sausage Gravy

1 lb sage-flavored bulk sausage, as lean as possible
2 T finely chopped onion
6 T flour
1 quart milk
1/4 t. ground nutmeg, rounded
1/2 t. poultry seasoning, rounded
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Dash of Tabasco

Crumble the sausage into a large saucepan, and saute over medium-low heat, breaking the meat into small pieces while it cooks. Do not allow it to brown or get crisp. When meat is about three-quarters done, add the onion and cook until the onion is transparent.

Drain off all but 2 T of the meat drippings, you don't have to be too precise about this. Stir in the flour with a whisk and cook over medium low heat for six to seven minutes, or until the flour turns golden and bubbles up. Pour in the milk all at once. and add the seasonings. Cook and whisk until the mixture thickens. Place biscuit halves on each plate and top with sausage gravy.

Here is the recipe for Diva Don's great Italian Breakfast Strata. It's also a cook aheader and reheat. Hey, there are better things to do whilst camping than cook!

Italian Sausage, Bell Pepper and Fontina Breakfast Strata


  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups sliced green onions
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 1 large red bell pepper, halved, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch wide-strips
  • 1 1-pound loaf rustic French bread, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 2 cups (loosely packed) coarsely grated Fontina cheese


  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch ceramic or glass baking dish. Whisk first 7 ingredients in large bowl; sprinkle generously with pepper. Set aside.
  • Place sausage in large nonstick skillet; push to 1 side. Add bell pepper to other side of skillet. Sauté over high heat, breaking up sausage with fork, until sausage is cooked through and bell peppers are brown in spots, about 7 minutes.
  • Arrange half of bread slices in prepared dish. Pour half of egg mixture over. Sprinkle with half of cheese, then half of sausage-pepper mixture. Repeat layering. Let stand 20 minutes, occasionally pressing on bread to submerge. Bake strata until puffed and brown, about 1 hour. Cool slightly.

Here is the bread recipe that I made. I really doubted it at first, with just a quarter of a teaspoon of yeast, but it worked! It had a nice texture and taste. It has to rise for 18 hours, so plan accordingly! Please note that I did not preheat my dutch oven, nor did I let it sit for an hour after baking!

No Knead, Dutch Oven Bread

1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting. You may use white, whole wheat or a combination of the two.
1 1/2 tsp salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran for dusting

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add the flour and salt, stirring until blended. The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at least 8 hours, preferably 12 to 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
  2. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it. Sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 15 minutes.
  3. Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or to your fingers, gently shape it into a ball. Generously coat a clean dish towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal. Put the seam side of the dough down on the towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another towel and let rise for about 1 to 2 hours. When it’s ready, the dough will have doubled in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
  4. At least 20 minutes before the dough is ready, heat oven to 475 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven and lift off the lid. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up. The dough will lose its shape a bit in the process, but that’s OK. Give the pan a firm shake or two to help distribute the dough evenly, but don’t worry if it’s not perfect; it will straighten out as it bakes.
  5. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned. Remove the bread from the Dutch oven and let it cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before slicing.

Why do I have a black chicken?? Find out, and hear all about the carnage on the next blog post from.....Tales from the Coop Keeper!!!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Favorite Day Camping

The day started with a good hearty breakfast from the cooking Diva Donna. (Recipe to follow in next post). I actually slept pretty good in the Cramper. The showers were nice and warm and clean, and my coffee, well, my always tastes better when camping, was delicious.

We decided to drive to town, because we'd see a couple little cute places on the way in. We found this place. It simply had a sign out in front "Rhubarb" We pulled in, and this little old man met us. He asked how much I wanted and then proceeded out to the field to get it. I don't know why, but to me it just doesn't get any better than that. There is something about little old people and gardens that just slays me.

He brought it up in the wheelbarrow and then his wife came out and helped him cut all the leaves off. They didn't seem to mind that I was taking pictures. I'm sure they thought I was crazy. I'm used to that.

I love this picture. So simple. So lovely. The lovely green leaves against the red wheelbarrow. There is so much beauty in the simplest of things. On they way out he asked if I'd like some asparagus that he'd picked that morning. I got 5#. It's the most tender, beautiful asparagus I've eaten. Makes me kick myself that I've never gotten a bed of it established here.

We stopped at a farmstand. It wasn't local produce, much too early for that, but it was beautiful nonetheless, and I did get a mighty tasty watermelon. The lady that ran the stand was from Spain, and had the most beautiful accent.

Misc. pic....My sister Cindy, Aaron's mother enjoying a darn good cup of Joe. Oh where is Aaron? Where are all the teenagers at anyway? Kayla? Aaron? Kyle?? Assshhhllley? Where are you? Sleeping in the popup? Ohhh, that is right. Only saw you at meal time!

Trailer Trash Dave. (Donna's husband) Serving us scrambled eggs.

Peeking at my bread rising in the camper. The recipe will be shared in the cooking post.

There was another vintage trailer at the park. This one is from 1965. The people that owned it were kind enough to let me in and tell me all that they've done to it to fix it up. I asked to take their pic, but they declined. I didn't think they'd appreciate me taking pics inside. They were quite friendly and told me a about a Yahoo group that is all about Vintage Trailers. They came by and admired The Squirrel.

That is one of the things I like about camping the most. Meeting different people. Hearing their stories. Finding out where they are from.

The pictures that I'm missing are from this little place we'd found called Bonnie's. What a delight this place was! I'm going to post the pics as soon as I get them. I desperately need a new camera if I'm going to do this blogging thing! Bonnie's was a little road side place that sold Hosta's for $3, a dozen brown eggs for $2. I was really hoping to see her hens, but no one was home, and there was just a little cash box sitting out to pay. I bought one Hosta, a variety that I didn't have, and a dozen eggs. They were so beautiful!

The day ended with a nice supper cooked over the campfire in dutch ovens. It was such a nice laid back day. I think what I enjoyed the most about the day is that it reminded me so much of my beloved Aunt Jean that passed away nearly two years ago. These are the things she loved to do. She had such a wonderful connection to the earth. The way she lived her life was so simple. She loved and lived freely and deeply. She could cook you a wonderful meal with a chicken carcass and a potato. I loved her. LOVED HER. I miss her terribly. I worry that our generation of iPods and Twittering has lost the connection with the earth. In a fast paced world, where everything is at our fingertips, gone are the days for most, where life clicks on at a simple pace. The chickens are laying, the strawberries are ripening, we pray for rain, and we know our neighbors. There is no rushing a garden. My heart cries out for a simpler life. A quieter life.

And then I came home. HA! You aren't going to believe what I came home to. Stay tuned......

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I'm Baaaaaacccckkkkkk.......

Here you see The Squirrel in it's natural habitat! I finished sewing the awning, and I'm thrilled with it. Would have cost me about $300 to buy one, and I made it for $60! Still much tweaking to do to the campsite itself. I'm not loving that green grass, and I don't like all the 'clutter' about the table. Note the vintage cooler on the top of the table. Love that thing. I'm always on the lookout now for vintage camping gear.

Much to say, where to start. It was a good time. Relaxing, exhausting, all at once. I'm afraid I didn't get too many pics! My camera died on my at the most inopportune moment. My friend Donna sent me some pics, but I'm not sure how the quality is going to translate here. Anyhoo.....Here we go. I'm just going to blog a quick bit about getting there, really the second day was my favorite day, and that is a going to be a separate topic, and then the food will be another topic as well! I've still not figured out how to put more than five pics per blog.

The biggest thing to tell you about the day we left is how calm I remained. I know it may sound silly to some of you, but well, I grow horns when we are getting ready to go somewhere. Be it for the day, but especially when overnight is thrown in the mix. All of the sudden, I seem to think that I need to leave the house in TIP TOP shape. I'm talking about cleaning out cabinets, etc. I also get very rigid about the departure time. (In my best German accent) "Ve MUST leaf at EXACTLY 2pm!" Where does this come from? I've no idea. Well, I determined not to be that way, and realized that if I weren't enjoying ALL of this, from the getting ready, to the going, to the coming home and cleaning dirt and pollen out of every crevice in my body and camper (lovingly referred to as the CRAMPER now), then I've no business going. OK....well, you get the picture. I was calm as a cucumber, and we left when we were ready. It was refreshing, and I'm sure my family appreciated it. I'm realizing that I CAN control my controlling nature! Mwa ha ha!

We went to Tippecanoe State River Park in Winimac, Indiana. It's not far from us, about an hour an a half in a southeast direction I believe. Far enough to feel like we are getting away. Here is one pic that I managed to get of the park! It was very green there. VERY GREEN. Pollen everywhere. Our white Jeep was green by the time we left.

Let's see. Mosquitoes? Check! Dirt? Check! Rain? Check! We had them all! Wouldn't be camping without feeling filthy and homeless all weekend. I'm not sure that I'd go back to Tippecanoe. Now, there is a very lovely canoe ride that you can take, but the river was too high this time from all the rain we've had. Other than that, there wasn't much to do, and we didn't do much! The trails were under water as well. We ate. We napped. We walked around the campground. We played Scrabble. We played 'Would You Rather' a lot by the campfire. I have no idea how we got on the subject of a monkey lover, but we did, and that was what we used constantly, falling into fits of laughter each time. "Would you rather have your eye lids removed, or would you rather have a monkey lover?" I'm giggling now. Someone shared a story about someone having a monkey that was on Prozac, and it tearing the owners' face off....

Ok..I'll change the subject.

I'll blog about my favorite day next. I'll also be sharing a few recipes. Donna made a fantastic Italian Breakfast Strata. I made some killer bread in the campfire. I'll share my favorite recipe for Sausage Gravy too.

Isn't life a hoot?


Friday, May 22, 2009

No Blog Time For Bunny

You thought I was talking about this rabbit? Well, yes and no. This is Bun Bun. What an ORIGINAL name isn't it?? I thought I'd put her on here, since she gets no blog time, but I was really talking about me, not having time to blog.

We are getting ready to roll out tomorrow for our weekend camping trip. I'm extremely proud of myself because I haven't turned into a raving lunatic about getting ready. I'm totally calm! I still have to pack my clothes, bake Renee's Blondies (I can't wait to introduce you to Renee), and Peanut Butter Cookies. I'm looking SO forward to getting away this weekend. I've got my dutch ovens packed. I'm making a chicken and rice dinner in the 12" dutch oven, and a loaf of bread in one of my smaller ones. It's been YEARS since I've baked a yeast bread over a campfire. Can't wait.

Since I'm a little scatterbrained this evening, so will my blog be. Above is a picture of dwarf lilacs. If you've none of these in your yard, please stop reading this now, and get some! You must have them! I have six mature bushes in my yard, and I can't even begin to tell you how it smells here. Just getting out of your car, it hits you. I have them strategically placed throughout the garden so you smell them all over. The sad thing is that they don't last that long. I've never actually kept track, but it's maybe 10 days? Even if it were 2, I'd have them.

Dwarf lilacs. You won't be sorry. They don't get gangly like the old fashioned ones. They are well behaved shrubs that make a nice round shape naturally. I've never pruned them at all.

I have one placed right outside of my bedroom window, on purpose, so that I can open the window and fall asleep with that fragrance.

You can see it past Mocha's big fat head. Like the Ugly Doll that Aaron got me for Mother's Day? Her name is Fea Bea. Too cute.

The irises started blooming. Still no peonies. Seems late. I'll be ticked if they bloom while I'm gone! A former neighbor brought me a bushel basket of iris rhizomes. They've since moved, but his irises live on. Those are the kind of neighbors I like. Not the gone gardening ones.

Does anyone know what this is? It spreads like the Swine Flu and I have to remove wheelbarrows of it every year. I call it Buttercups, but I don't think that is what it is. It's about a foot tall, spreads, and blooms for a short time. It would be GREAT in a spot that you just want filled with ground cover. It's apparent that it would choke out anything in it's path. I bet that is where all the socks I lose in the dryer are. Want some? Seriously. Come and get it.

That's about all for now. Thanks for reading! It was a nice break to sit and type for a bit. The oven is preheated, so I must depart.

Oh, who's watching my chickens while I'm gone? Get this, they are being boarded. I kid you not! My friend TOOK THEM HOME. :-) I almost got more at the feed store today. I went for rabbit food, and oh my, those little baby chicks, staring at me. Homeless baby chickens. I think I could have a hundred and it wouldn't be enough. I should have gotten them, but then I'd have had to take them camping with me. I think that would have been ok, don't you?

Happy Memorial Day!

PS Just so you know, I know that there are weird indentations on this blog. The crazy thing is, I don't see them when I'm doing it, but there they are after I post. I am trying to figure out why. It bothers me! Also, if any one knows how to blog, and add more than five photos to a post, PLEASE let me know!

PPS Well, now isn't that something. The weird indentations are gone......I'm losing it!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Counting Bird

That's my new Indian name. Counting Bird. It's all I do now that the girls are out. Well, sorta out. Out in their homeless shelter cause the coop isn't built! Numerous times a day I go out and count them. One, two, three, four, five, six. Two, four, six. Three, six.

There in the background you can see the old chicken coop that was here when we moved in. We are working on that to make it liveable for the girls. We had originally planned on building a new structure out in the garden.

The girls spent their first night outside last night. I counted them this morning. Happy to report they are all accounted for.

And now you know why.........I count my birds.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cooking Club!

Here's a few of the gals in one of my Cooking Clubs. I'm in two (I know). From the left to the right: Donna, Roberta, Lisa and Kathy Jo. Her name is just Kathy, but I call her Kathy Jo. Well, I call Roberta - Bobbie, and Donna, Baby, and Lisa, I call her Lisa, but in a funny voice.

Four of the greatest gals that ever walked the earth. Donna. Bless her heart. Thank you GOD that she moved here from Ohio. I know she didn't want to, but God knew I needed her. We'll be friends forever. Sometimes you just know those things. I can just see us old and senile, still making fun of people. *love you gurl*. There is not a day that goes by when she doesn't get a comment about how much someone loves her hair. It's gettin' old Baby. Roberta. Don't let her size fool you. She is one tough cookie. She is the kind of person that you just know would be there for you whenever you needed her. She is very wise. She is quite beautiful. Something about her, you just can't pinpoint it, but you just want to fold her up in your pocket and carry her around. Lisa. Extremely talented. A fabricaholic. Love that about her! If you want to laugh, be around Lisa. You will be on the floor. Look how lovely she is. Behind her professional appearance and manner at work is a total goofball. Kathy Jo. The first person I befriended at the BMV. Swore up and down that I wasn't going to make 'friends' at this job, just acquaintances. She screwed up my plan. She is so sweet, so delicate. So stinkin' sarcastic that it cracks me up. We daily exchange Seinfeldisms. She gets me. I like it. I like her ALOT. Thanks for always having my back Kath.

The premise is that we take turns at each others' homes. Whomever is hosting that month will pick out the menu and assign each of us a recipe. We usually have a theme. This month it was Bobbie's turn, and we did 'Appetizers'.

Here's Baby's Zucchini Fritters. They were good! A nice sour cream dipping sauce took them over the top.

For me, Lisa's (insert funny voice here) pizza was the winner of the day. An asparagus, fingerling potato, goat cheese creation. (Recipe to follow).

Here's Kathy Jo's recipe. Cheese stuff, bacon wrapped dates. Oh yum. These were SUPER good. Great for a holiday I think. Sweet. Salty. Yum-o.

My recipe this month was Garlic Souffle in a cream sauce. It was good, but I didn't like it enough to make it twice. It's not pictured here cause it was in the oven when I took the pics and I'm a dork.

You should start your own Cooking Club! It's so much fun. You end up trying things you'd never make before. Sometimes you really find out that you like something that you'd never try otherwise.

Give this a try, you really won't be sorry:


  • 5 ounces fingerling potatoes
  • Cornmeal (for sprinkling)
  • Pizza Dough
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced, divided
  • 1 1/3 cups grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese (about 6 ounces)
  • 4 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled
  • 8 ounces asparagus, trimmed, each spear cut in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 2- to 3-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


Place potatoes in small saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Sprinkle with salt. Bring to boil and cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. Cool. Cut potatoes into thin slices.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Sprinkle rimless baking sheet with cornmeal. Roll and stretch pizza dough to 16x11-inch oval. Transfer to baking sheet. Mix 1 tablespoon olive oil and garlic in small bowl. Brush garlic oil over dough. Sprinkle 3/4 of green onions over, then mozzarella, leaving 1/2-inch plain border. Top with potato slices and goat cheese. Toss asparagus and 1 tablespoon oil in medium bowl. Scatter asparagus over pizza. Sprinkle with Parmesan, then lightly with salt and generously with pepper.

Bake pizza until crust is browned and asparagus is tender, about 18 minutes. Transfer to cutting board. Sprinkle with remaining green onions. Cut into pieces.