Self Sufficiency- Too Many Eggs!


The wonderful chickens are laying their hearts out and we are getting way too many eggs! How to really eat ” In Season” is to eat what we have right ? So some egg recipes follow, because you have to be creative. Any ideas out there ? We also market some of our eggs to help compensate for the cost, because organic feed is so expensive ! But worth it , no GMO corn sprayed with round-up fed here . Plus they eat lot’s of green vegetables every day so our yolks are so yellow!

Do you know that the eggs you buy in the store can be four to six weeks old and older if they were cold stored ? Support your local egg grower.

1. Always have hard boiled eggs- if the eggs are very fresh, they will peel well if you steam them for about 20 minutes.

2. Eggs for breakfast- If I scramble them I always put a few extra in and they usually get eaten. Breakfast burritos w/ scrambled eggs.

3. Deviled Eggs- Mix mayonnaise, salt, pepper, squeeze of meyer lemon.

4. Frittata- Heat Oven: 400 Carla Roney taught me this recipe, start with a pound of goat cheese chevre, whip it with the mixer, add 12 eggs one at a time mix each one in and beat, salt and pepper and 3-4 Tbs. flour. At the same time I saute onions( let them brown) in a #8 cast iron frying pan, add garlic and a lot of chard chopped fine, cook until well wilted . Add in egg and cheese mixture Bake until browned. approx. 45 mins.

5. Quiche- Try potato and cheddar or quiche lorraine which to our family means Bacon and carmelized onions usually jack cheese since we don’t typically buy swiss.

6. Deviled egg sandwich- really good on our home made sourdough bread!

7. Vanilla Custard- Whisk 4 egg yolks Measure in another bowl 3/4 cup cream. Combine in a small pan 3/4 cup half/ half, 1/4 cup sugar, one 2′ piece of vanilla bean split. Warm until steaming, stir occasionally to dissolve the sugar. When warm whisk into the egg yolks.Strain this mixture into the cold cream and mix well.Remove the vanilla bean from the strainer and squeeze all the seeds and juice from it back into the mixture. preheat oven to 350. Pour into four custard cups. Place them in a large deep pan, pour in boiling water until halfway up the sides. Cover w/ foil and seal edges. Bake until the sides are set but the center is still soft when jiggled. About 25-30 minutes.
Remove from the water and let cool. : From “The Art Of Simple Food” by Alice Waters

8. Lemon Bars- 1 1/2 c flour, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, 12 TBS. butter cut into flour. Press into bottom and 1/4 inch up the sides, of 13×9 inch pan. Bake 325 till golden brown 20-30 mins. Reduce to 300, whisk together 6 large eggs,3 cups sugar, stir in grated zest of one lemon, and 1 cup+ 2 Tbs. lemon juice and 1/2 cup flour. Pour over baked, cooled, crust. Bake until set approx. 35 mins. From ” Joy of Cooking”

8. Challah Bread- Bakers Flour 7 1/2 cups, 5 Tbs. sugar, 4 egg yolks, 2 eggs, 5 1/2 Tbs. softened butter, 1 1/2 cups warm water, 1 Tbs. salt, 2 1/2 teas. yeast. From BREAD by: Jeffrey Hamelman.

9. Pancakes- Three eggs( beaten), two shy cups of flour, two cups of buttermilk, two teaspoons of baking powder, 1/4 -1/2 stick of butter melted.

Eating from the garden year round


Yesterday I dug through last Fall’s potato bed . We’ve gone through it a few times already for the last of the potatoes, think I’ve gotten them all now. I found some nice red potatoes and decided to replant them . We haven’t had enough red ones.

Last night I made a meatloaf. Local sausage and local organic hamburger, cooked rice, cream, onions( out of the garden) and roasted the last of the potatoes . It ‘s a good time for the spring planting of potatoes, so this morning perused potato catalogs and wrote out an order. It’s very expensive to buy seed potatoes , plus pay the shipping. More than $50.00 for 13.5lbs. of seed potatoes plus the shipping was going to be more than $20.00 more. I remembered the local farmers who had a huge bumper crop of organically grown potatoes dry land farmed in rich river bottom land. They agreed to sell me a 50# box for $50.00. I came home and planted another forty five feet by three feet of russet and yukon gold potatoes. The extras should keep us in local potatoes until the next bed is harvested in the next few months.

I made a potato soup for dinner, spring garlic, purple onions, parsley, fresh thyme and rosemary, potatoes and a small amount of meatloaf. Everyone loved it. We’re still eating spinach, swiss chard, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, lettuce, onions and some beets from the garden. Asparagus and artichokes are just coming on. Eating year round out of the garden, here in California is pretty easy even without a root cellar. We canned tomato sauce, salsa, apple sauce, jam, pickles, green beans from the garden last summer. In the freezer we have blackberries and huckleberries still. There are some lemons on our small tree happily growing next to the chicken coop. Lemon curd and lemon bars have been a staple lately along with custard and puddings from all the eggs the hens are laying. I’ve traded some bread for gelato and for goat meat last week. We eat good! Plus the cost is quite reasonable. I’ve saved seeds for many of my greens and let others reseed in the garden. I buy some seed and some starts, small amounts of organic fertilizer to supplement our manure rich compost. Gardens don’t have to be expensive. Neither should eating be.

Baking Day ! Febuary 12th 12:00


Febuary 12th 12:00 the oven should be about 500-600 degrees. Perfect for bread baking and roast meats, Pizza. Let me know if you want to be in on making bread the day before and early am the morning of the bake.

The oven is very well insulated and stays hot for days. Many more things could be baked in it as the temp. goes down. Just let us know.

If you want to learn about naturally leavened bread we’ll be putting it together Friday and Saturday early.

Inspiration Farms

Well I went with more friends to the second lesson on biodynamic orchard practices and pruning. This day started at The Apple Farm http://www.philoapplefarm.com/ with Tim Bates telling us about the most beautiful compost and how the innoculents work. Luke Frey http://www.freywine.com/ demonstrating the method of integrating them on a specific grid all around and on top of the compost pile. Then on to compost tea and the machine and technique to make this. He no longer uses any other spray on his trees. I saw the trees last summer and the orchard glowed with life. Biodynamic practices are everything I believe a garden should be. Live water, live soil, healthy compost as fertilizers. Plants and fruit that impart their live-ness to the ones that eat them. Wholeness practiced.

The Apple farm has made a success of itself by direct marketing it’s apples as cider and juice. Also by teaching cooking classes, from vegetables grown by Tim and Susan Bates’ daughter Sophia. Plus some small cabins to lodge cooking class participants. This is farm is so beautiful and such a great environment.

Then we went to Filigreen Farm and my mouth dropped and never has gone back into shape yet. Chris and Stephanie Tebbutt have built orchards and gardens with such intelligence and sophistication. Yet also with the mindset to exemplify how to make orcharding practices be a viable business.They have espallied their fruit trees on a 7 footx 13 foot pattern. Rows and rows with neatly mowed grass or cover crop between. All grown biodynamically as well. High production yields in smaller acreage. Diverse products spanning a long harvest season starting with Blueberries and ending with apples.Olives producing the most delectible oil

They also built in respect for the land in every form and detail. From removing their large grandfathered in, creek pumping, easement. Thereby protecting waters downstream.At a great expense to themselves they built a huge reservoir that now provides their carefully balanced and efficiently used irrigation water. Flow forms were integrated into the landscape to energize the water and the environment. A beautiful shape in the middle of their garden was not planted but represented the mother, heart, earth energy.

All of us were profoundly moved by this garden. I can’t thank the Tebbutt’s enough for creating this marvel in the world. Plus allowing us to come and be inspired by it.

Winter and the chickens


Our chickens have been living in too much mud, although they have a large, well strawed, clean chicken coop to consider.We have a bobcat that loves it’s weekly/bi-weekly organic chicken dinner, finally showing up in the middle of the day staring my husband down, has prevented the chickens more freedom. The only way we will let them out is if we are right there the whole time they are out.Luckily here in Calif. we still have all kinds of greens in the garden and I can feed them buckets of kale, chard, arugula and spinach daily My husband can just tell them firmly “get in the coop” and they all run back in. If I try that they just keep eating, they don’t even look up. Needless to say I end up there for long days when I let them out. Chickens automatically will go back into their familiar home when the sun goes down.

We started out with twenty five Buff Orpingtons. Beautiful, gentle as their reputation, large sized chickens. They are now three years old, and the egg production slowed way down after about two plus years.We don’t have the nerves developed yet to get the remaining few, about seven, to the stew pot. Need to work on that. We should have bought the next chickens earlier, a year and a half would be a good schedule. Our young Black Orpington’s are now really laying and we are starting to get almost a dozen a day. We were marketing some eggs and had a good trade system for some as well before the laying slowed down. Because we waited to renew our flock, we now have to develop new clients.The cost of the organic feed needs to be off set with some financial gain. It’s very expensive to feed all these critters, our monthly costs are a constant balance.
Baking with those eggs has spoiled me for good. Never have I tasted cakes, lemon curd, pancakes so good. During Christmas I baked a yeasted Challah bread. It called for a certain weight of eggs to the recipe. I ended up with nine loaves of 30oz. Challah and used 27 eggs. It came out so good! Baked in the brick oven.
One of my favorite authors and his weekly blog.

http://thecontraryfarmer.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/acquiring-knowledge-by-accident/

Christmas gifting

Today I pruned the wisteria that are beginning to grow up and across our porch . I took the cuttings and wound them into some wreaths. In a very poor Christmas in the past we used their seed pods to string into ornaments on our tree.They would twirl in the breeze and look pretty with red ribbons on the tree.
Here is a wreath I made today. They can be decorated with rosehips,birds nests pinecones,holly.Look around for what you can find for free.

My artist daughter also illustrated some kitchen towels and some fabric that I will make into pot holders.These I’m embroidering . I finally found the best batting for pot holders is cotton felt padding for protecting tables .Two or three layers of this protects your hand from heat.I’ve also collected garden seed from our property all year that will also be good as gifts. Jams, pickles, vinegar. These all are very inexpensive, creative gift ideas. What are yours ?

I think there is nothing as wonderful as handmade gifts. It makes sense to me to have a holiday for that. This crazy shopping consumerism holiday does not appeal to me. I still remember the feeling of wearing a sweater my mom had knit.Or clothes she had sewed. It was like the difference of good home cooked food or fast food.The energy and love that goes into the creations embraces you.Makes you smile. The Christmas’s we all remember the best are the ones where we had the least amount of money and had to make most things.Get really creative and try to make your dreams or maybe just a fabulous meal is enough of a “gift”.Share your energy not just things.

Remember what memories you most value about the holidays. It’s usually not the things you received or gave but the feelings of being with one another. The memory of a special taste or flavor.The stories you read around a fire. The time you did something wrong, but it was still OK.None of this was the material world this was the physical world of sensation and feelings. Consider what really gives someone happiness in the gifting .Think about supporting a local person in their creativity if you don’t have time for it yourself.

Homemade soap, herbal teas and hand thrown mugs.Local jams and jellies, homemade candies. A collage of memorable family pictures maybe mixed with items that remind you of the person.Handmade ornaments.Maple syrup or honey from a small farm.Trade, barter, support local small business if you do buy.

The Organic Thanksgiving

With holidays here . I get a little crazy. Why is it all the woman’s job to handle the housework, kids, gifts,parties.Plus in my case also the gardens and a job.? Boy do I ever sound like the complaining wife. But this is so hard to master. I try to go really fast so that maybe I’ll have some time today to do something creative . Some “project” is all I want. Be it getting out my sewing machine and making gifts or planting a new area. Heck just weeding works. Those of you who know me , know already that I blast through my days usually getting more done than the average super woman.But this stumbling block of getting enough done or not over committing ( oh, my god did I say that! ), is that the key?
But I love, good food, I love handmade things.I love to garden. I love to help others.I love to play with my kids.wow too much. Maybe that’s the way greed works with me.Greedy for everything, I want to live all the lives all at the same time.Eating the cake and having it to.
We really did eat well over Thanksgiving. One party at my in-laws that I blessedly got to rely on my sister and brother in laws to cook everything. I did make four pumpkin pies out of the little pumpkins that volunteered out of the compost that grew by the barn.Some sugar baby cross from my friend Maria’s pumpkins she grew the year before. Plus some hors d’vors .
We had decided to spend our children’s inheritance and buy a organic turkey. Which we would bake in the brick oven. The year before someone had told me that they had a delicious one baked this way, at really high heat. So of course we also had to do bread.Then we had so much food we had to invite people. It became really fun.The naturally leavened bread starts Thursday morning by taking out of the refrigerated “starter” and adding to it.Then that night adding again taking out a bit to put back into the frig. as the saved starter.Adding to the desired recipe weight.The next morning mixing it into dough,adding salt, kneading.One hour punching it down another hour or two( or retard at this point) shaping it into loaves.Then letting it rise slowly a minimum of three hours before baking.The best sour happens if you retard this part or before you shape the loaves and let it sit overnight.
My husband loves fire more than just about anything. His whole family are firemen and having grown up in the country, love the winter bonfires.He gets to enjoy this passion by making fires in this oven which usually burn overnight , then most of the next day before cleaning out and holding in the stored heat. It’s difficult to learn to fire these ovens for your use. Sometimes we’ve gotten it too hot sometimes too cold. Lately we’d had quite a few batches of bread where the oven was too cool.The timing of these two random points the oven and the bread are difficult to master.Anyway on Friday he got the oven hot, really hot.So our bread took about ten minutes and was still a little raw in the middle, had to go back in . The turkey took no more than a hour and a half and was very brown and crispy but really good. The mashed potatoes we grew ourselves.The pies.At this point when I could have gone right out and picked a spinach salad,arugula,mizuna with local blue cheese dressing.I was too tired.So we ate happily not noticing.
Sat and told good jokes by the fire pit, cozy on a cold winter night. I love this life!

Sourdough Bread

About two years and  ago my good friend Laura, a talented , ever inquisitive chef, gardener, doctor , acupuncturist etc. all around good buddy,  decided to  take the worlds best class. A professional baking class , working with naturally leavened breads baked in a brick oven. This was no sissy class . I think there were two week long sessions. Anyway she came back with about ninety loaves of gorgeous bread. Of course being the generous friend she is our freezer got filled.

Anyway you have to realize that I’m a bakery freak. I plan my routes on drives and trips by what bakery we’ll stop at.Growing up in the bay area honed my taste buds for fine food from a early age. Or maybe some of my great grandmother’s Danish blood .My mothers good cooking .Whatever , I truly appreciate baked food.So when she showed up on my doorstep with these fine morsels and my husband agreed by wolfing them down as well.I proposed an idea( always one for ideas, my poor friends)…How about I build a brick oven and she can teach me what she learned. Then we could of course bake together. She laughed but probably should have known I would really do it.

Soooo a year later the oven just finished I planned a big party to celebrate.So now I better learn fast how to bake the bread I was planning the party around it . Now I’m a hands on learner not a book learner. Even though she had been pushing books my way they had gone in one eye out the other.So of course as always she pulled it off. Even got excited herself about it I think. She showed up here with a kitchen full of bread baking paraphenalia that would never fit into my extra small kitchen.Scales, bread boards, plastic tubs all sizes and the key ingredient, a starter from the San Francisco  Baking Institute .

We began and 90 loaves later we had the most wonderful party with roast leg of lamb( brick ovens cook meat so well), roasted root veggies out of the garden, breads four + kinds , cheeses, salads. A fresh blackberry crisp that kind of burned because we still didn’t know how to judge the temperature of the oven. Anyway we were on our way with that one crash course. I keep reading and experimenting and I think I’m starting to catch on.

This leaves out an important part of this story. How we needed a roof over the oven and what evolved then. Because it might rain at the party.