2021–In Praise of Chicken Excrement

Black Gold

When you get up early on New Year’s Day to feed the chickens, and the low temp is 67 F, something is seriously wrong. That something is Anthropogenic Climate Disturbance, aka Global Warming. It’s fine now, but the summer will be when the bill comes due.

There is one constant, however–the wonders of chicken excrement. Americans in general treat chickens like a protein machine, caged, abused, and thrown away and eaten at a very early age. Our flock of eight ramble around all day, eat greens and high protein food, and we get eggs by the dozen. Better, possibly is the giant piles of excrement, which I compost. I am just beginning to use it as fertilizer. It could be the GOAT (greatest of all time.)

Chicken excrement and I go way back. When I grew up on the old farm, that was our main fertilizer, and sometimes the only one. As it turns out, industrial scale chicken production produces industrial scale chicken stuff. We had tons of this stuff at a time, which means we had tons of vegetables, and pounds and pounds of beef–we fertilized the pastures with chicken stuff, and even had to buy a giant stuff spreader to be able to do it.

So the moral for this new year is, what goes around, comes around. I have been fertilizing my mustard greens with chicken stuff, and feed the greens to the chicks, and the egg quality just gets better. I composted my garlic plants (forty in total,) and they took off like weeds. I just layered my young asparagus patch with several inches of compost. I better get the asparagus steamer ready for spring.

Film at eleven.

Planting Asparagus

Spargelzeit

This will be the fourth time I’ve planted asparagus crowns, aka roots, and these are two years old, which will give us a good decade of Asparagus spears every spring. This year, however, I have the secret weapon that my family used when I was very young, and that would be well composted chicken manure. We had the finest patch of Asparagus in several counties.

As the temps are to be in the upper 50’s F this weekend, it will be a good time for a labor intensive project. The crowns need to be planted fairly deep, around six inches, and spread out properly. My garden is mostly sand, which means they need to be planted even a little deeper than usual.

I bought these crowns from Amazon for a ridiculously low price, and to my surprise, they shipped from Shanghai, China. Amazon has even outsourced vegetables. I was amused to learn this week that our corporate overlord Bezos had his phone hacked by the Saudi royal family. That will teach him about dealing with other royalty.

I’ll soak my crowns in water tomorrow, and plant on Saturday. To quote the great Wendell Berry,

“Eating ends the annual drama of the food economy that begins with planting and birth.”

Then I will try to find out the Chinese term for Spargelzeit, which is German for Asparagus time.

Veg and Fruit

Farmers of the World Unite

 “I have lived temperately, eating little animal food, & that, not as an aliment so much as a condiment for the vegetables, which constitute my principal diet.”–Thomas Jefferson

Asparagus Quiche

Spargelzeit!

Pi Day is gone, but Pie Days are here. One of the best meals I have ever eaten was at the French House at the University of Alabama, where we students of French were offered four different kinds of quiche–not surprisingly, I ate some of each one. My favorite was Asparagus Quiche. Here’s one with an all butter Creole Pie Crust.

Ingredients

1 Creole Pie Crust

8 ounces Swiss Cheese, cubed

6 large Asparagus Stalks

4 organic Eggs

Heavy Cream (Enough to fill the crust)

Salt and Pepper

Nutmeg

Crank your oven up to 400 degrees F, as this pie crust goes in uncooked. Break the asparagus at the point where it becomes tough (just try this once, and you’ll get the hang of it). Peel the lower half and cut into half inch pieces. Add the chopped pieces with the cheese into the uncooked pie shell. Mix the cream and egg mixture together, and season. Pour that over the filling in the pie shell, season with nutmeg, and arrange the asparagus spears into whatever Leonardo-esque shape you prefer.

Strange but Edible

Ok. so there’s some chopped up cooked bacon in there as well. What’s a meal without bacon? Bake at 400 degrees F for at least forty five minutes, until the quiche filling browns. Let the cooked pie rest, and then it’s time to chow down on some springtime.

Asparagus with Sour Cream/Mustard Sauce

An Old School French Asparagus Steamer

Whether you like it steamed, sauteed, boiled, roasted, or grilled, my favorite vegetable, asparagus, is about to be in season. It’s almost Spargelzeit, or Asparagus time, as it’s called in Germany, so break out the steamer or grill. Skip the lemon butter and try something different this time–a sour cream mustard sauce. This is as easy to make as any salad dressing.

Ingredients

1/2 cup Sour Cream

1 teaspoon Honey

2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard

1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar

Dill Weed

Salt

Mix these together, and chow down. Vary the proportions according to your whims. Sometimes I want more honey, sometimes vinegar, and almost always, more mustard. Someone has to support the mustard farmers of Burgundy, though I hear more mustard comes from Canada these days, instead of France. This also makes a great dipping sauce for almost any raw vegetable, or crudité, since we have gotten all French all of a sudden.