Starting with Chickens

Right Profile–My Best Side

Despite the fact that we have every vermin imaginable around here, from raccoons to rednecks, we are venturing into the chicken growing hobby. The birds live inside a coop inside a bigger coop and another enclosure. They will eventually have some free range time, if the foxes and hawks don’t get them first. We have an entire population of light phase red tail hawks, and assorted accipters as well.

So it isn’t easy being a chicken. These five week olds are Barred Rocks, and we plan on adding a couple of Rhode Island Reds. These are for egg laying, though if it comes down to it, in the words of young Lily Kingsolver, founder of Lily’s Lovely Layers, “We’ll only kill the mean ones.” Enough said.

First Spring Salad

Some Mizuna Mustard, a Brassica, and a Scallion

We scored some local beef Chuck Eye Steaks yesterday, and decided it was steak and salad time. Our token veg was Crowder peas, unfortunately made from dried ones, as we have eaten our way almost completely though our freezer. Good thing the official opening of the Festhalle Farmer’s Market is next weekend.

But we had homegrown fresh greens for the salad. As Neil Young rightly said. “Homegrown is the way it should be.” We topped the salad with my Half A Remoulade sauce, a go to around here. Half A means half a**ed.




Lemon Juice (we use Meyer Lemon Juice)


Dill Pickle, finely chopped

Capers, finely chopped

1 Scallion

Tabasco Sauce

We use this on everything from Salads to Po-Boys. Add some extra hot sauce for the Po-boys. Proportions for this sauce are between you and your conscience.

And now for some gratuitous spring blooming shrub pictures.

Halesia diptera magniflora
Rhododendron canascens

Rustic Cabinet

Another Rustico Original

This cabinet is attached to the back of my brick oven, as there is never enough room to store the gear that accumulates over the years. It’s actually only an old greenhouse bench which I clad in old PT boards into which I cut tongue and groove joints. I also made the paint, which I will discuss later, as some people actually cook this paint, and the top is–drumroll–fireproof! That’s cement board topped with un-gauged slate. The next project is a “Tuscan” grill to be built next to it.

The Red Death (Drink Recipe)–Weird Southern, Part One

The early period of Southern writing gave us Thomas Jefferson, Mary Randolph, and Edgar Allan Poe, as strange a trio as befits the region. (And that’s just Virginia, where one of my ancestors landed in 1611, nine years before the Mayflower made it to Plymouth.) Poe’s brilliant short story, “The Masque of the Red Death,” inspired this traditional drink of The Mallet Assembly at the University of Alabama, which at the time I lived there, was officially the men’s honors dorm (It’s co-ed now, as girls are allowed to go to school currently. That’s a joke, in case you didn’t get it). Here’s what honors dorm guys make for a party.


Cherry Kool-Aid

Water (some idiots say this is optional)

Grain Alcohol (such as Everclear)

That’s it. Consume with extreme, and I mean extreme, caution. There’s a cautionary tale to go with this recipe, as told in the style of Ben Franklin.

“As an undergraduate in college, I did not partake of intoxicating beverages, as I only drank water and tea, and the tea had to be without sweetening. Due to this strict regime, I became something of a Scholar concerning Intoxication. Many of my fellow students fell victim to this vice of drinking alcohol, and I witnessed their eventual downfall.

“Alas, one young gentleman drank more than his fair share at one of our celebrations, in the typical red Solo cup that graced such receptions. He became so inebriated he collapsed head first in the hallway afterward. His reward was a broken nose, which bled profusely.”

Enough of that. Said undergrad was taken to the infirmary by a couple of guys, but not until some jackanape had chalk lined the shape of his body where he fell. He was fine, but we left all the blood on the floor to dry, as a reminder.

Everyone on campus was talking next week about “that party where that guy died.” This is how legends are born.

Spring Vegetables

Dwarf Grey Sugar Peas and Purple Mizuna

I grew up on a farm where we had 10,000 chickens a year, and plots of fifteen acres of pink eye purple hull peas. No more of that. Here’s a typical spring garden now.


That’s Alabama Snow Wreath, Neviusia alabamensis, standing guard over my scallions, radishes, and peas. It’s an incredibly rare shrub. We’re already eating the scallions, and the mizuna will be next. Then comes the spring favorite: PEAS.

Green Arrow Peas, and more Mizuna

This is my first year growing Green Arrow english peas. So far the weather has been perfect, and I’ll hopefully have a recipe with fresh peas to share in a month or so.

Svea 123–The Ultimate Outdoor Stove

A Stove with Drama. Swedish and Proud of It

No one needs a 30,000 BTU kerosene burner all the time, so my go to outdoor stove is the venerable SVEA 123, based on a design which is well over a hundred years old. It’s so complex my version, the 123R, has TWO moving parts. In two decades, it has never needed a single repair.

Then there’s the drama. It burns white gas, aka petrol, coleman fuel, benzine, etc, so it needs to be primed in order to light. Pour a little fuel over the burner, light a match, throw it in the direction of the stove, and RUN AWAY. This stove is not recommended for use on oak tables.

Will it cook?

A Fast Boil

After the starter flame burns out, the stove is easily lit, and then comes the famous sound–a jet engine, or a rocket taking off. Mine sounds like a locomotive trying to get up a mountain-chug chug, chug chug. This is my favorite outdoor stove.

Buy one of the old solid brass Swedish made ones from eBay, and if you’re incredibly lucky, you can get one with the Sigg Tourist cook set. I admitted to my wife that I have a fetish for camping stoves–I have six–but I could live with just this one.

All the Parts