Nutcracker v. Nutcrackers

Nutcracking Season is Here

Here are two classic nutcrackers. One dances every Christmas, and fights the Mouse King. The other one only cracks nuts, and doesn’t dance at all.

The military looking fellow did come from the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) in Deutschland, but he is mainly decoration, who could crack some hazelnuts, maybe, but not much more. That hundred year old fellow is another story. Archimedes himself would have loved this design. “Give me a place to stand, and a lever long enough, and I will move the world.” Or crack some nuts.

A Pecan was Harmed AND Eaten

I put the old fellow on a nice piece of oak, and made a spot for the pickers, as pecans are bad about sticking in the shells. And then there is the thing to bust open the pecan’s relative, the notorious hickory nut.

Hammer Down

Yes, that is a California made Vaughn 23 ounce framing hammer, and be ready to swing it to bust open a hickory nut, or a black walnut. Cooking can be a lot like work. Just don’t break hickory nuts on a nice countertop.

Boiling Ants

Old Meets New

Anyone who has spent much time in the South has come in contact with our insect scourge, the imported Fire Ant. After sneaking in on a banana boat, literally, in Mobile, they have spread from here to California. Their bite is bad enough that it can literally leave a scar. I have plenty.

Worst of all, their preferred habitats are lawns and veg gardens. People spend millions of dollars on chemicals to kill them. My solution is the Occam’s Razor of pest control. I just pour boiling water on them. It is both environmentally friendly, and emotionally satisfying.

You could run across your lawn with a kettle of boiling water, or you could do what I do, which is to take the fire to the ants (pun warning). My favorite setup is above, all Swedish, an Optimus stove and a Trangia kettle. Maybe I should get a dragon tattoo.

Killing fire ants, and playing with matches. How appropriate.

Mouli Parsmint, aka Herb Shredder

Hot day for Shredding

When it’s eighty nine degrees F at noon, you wander around in your air conditioned kitchen looking at all the various weirdness you have collected over the years. Hanging on our wall was an honest to god French made herb shredder, a Mouli Parsmint. It’s actually something of a bad mother.

It may resemble a wheelbarrow, but this thing can shred some leaves. Put in some herbs, and crank it up.

The French, They are so Clever

It also pops open, so it can be cleaned. I really should make more pesto every year.

Barred Rock Chickens at Six Months

Chickens always win a Stare Down with Emma the Aussie

We had our first four egg day, just as our six Barred Rock hens were about to hit the six month old mark. I imagine that will be the usual output of eggs, using the one egg per day and a half, per chicken, rule.

I am the Ruler of the Roost

Those two are Big Tail and Little tail. Though allegedly the same age, the developmental difference between the two is obvious. And there is even one thing they like better than their red wheelbarrow.

Earth Movers

My compost bin! I fill it up at least once a week, and they empty it out in no time. I still expect to have some of the richest compost in history, except that I will have to track it down, as they scatter it throughout the pen.

Coop, or Co-op?

At night they all cram into this pre-fab coop, which was made by Innovation Pet. It’s very clever, and was designed by some real chicken experts. Not actual chickens, but humans who are experts on chickens. It cost much less than what it would have taken me to build something similar. I did sit it on a foundation of 4x4s, which turned out to be an excellent idea, as we had an unbelievably wet spring.

At a later date, I will expound upon my mostly home made watering and feeding devices, two of which are partially visible in this picture. Until then, peace out.

Eggs. To Refrigerate, or not to Refrigerate? That is the Question.

Eggs laid Minutes ago, by my Barred Rock Hens

An existential question here–Should I wash my eggs? I mean, they have been up the inside of a chicken, so there is something strange about that. Who knows what those birds have been doing? I regularly catch mine loitering in my driveway. So naturally, the answer is no, and yes.

NO

My fresh eggs, which I collect a couple of times a day, are said to be safely consumed unrefrigerated for up to three months. They never last more than a week around here, so no biggy with that one. Unwashed eggs have a natural bacteria barrier coating known as the bloom or cuticle. If you buy eggs at a farmer’s market, just ask a seller if they have been washed. A little chicken poop on the eggs is a good sign they weren’t.

YES

The big bad USDA requires that all supermarket eggs be washed, and even steamed. Thus the natural coating has been removed, from even the freest of the free range eggs. Combine that with the fact that most commercial eggs are at least a month old before they hit the shelves. Keep these jokers cold. Moral of this story: No supermarket egg, no matter how expensive, will be as good as a farmyard one. There has to be a lesson here, if not an egg manifesto.

DOWN WITH BIG CHICKEN

Chickens of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your coops! Seriously, this goes back to the heart of agri-culture. Know where your food comes from, and all will be well. I promise.

Southern Vegetable Soup

Southern Vegetable Soup, Just getting Started

Here’s an old family recipe, created out of the necessity of eating only vegetables. As it so happens, it turns out to be, and I am actually understating this here, unbelievably good. Our vegetables play well together.

I have Died, and Gone to Vegetable Heaven

Create your own version out of whatever you have, but this is ours. Using what you got is the secret to good food. Quantities are based on how much you have.

Ingredients

Chicken Stock

1 Vidalia Onion, diced

Butter Beans

Field Peas

Tomatoes

Okra. sliced

Sweet Corn, cut from the cob

Salt and Pepper

Except for the seasoning, ingredients are cooked in that order. This is truly a dish of high summer, when all these things are in season at once. I now mill my tomatoes in a food mill, so the okra seeds get to be the star. The kicker is when all this is cooked, add:

Wide Egg Noodles

The extra starch does some magical something or other, and adds a little who knows what. Wait, that’s called flavor. Ideally, serve with a hot piece of:

Corn Bread

We’re talking a real melting pot here, Southern Cucina Povera. We freeze some for the winter, and days when you think it will never be warm again. Freeze it without the noodles, and add those only when you cook it. This soup is the boss, the mac daddy, and the kiss my butt on twentieth street shut your mouth cheap talk at the table stopper. That last one is something of a Birmingham thing.

An Old Farm Boy Discusses Hoya about Chickens on the Interwebs

Gott in Himmel! A Chicken on a Red Wheelbarrow, Surrounded by Grass Clippings, and Next to a Compost Bin made of Chicken Wire

As an old farm boy, I am endlessly amused by the farming experts on the interwebs, especially those who have no idea what they are talking about. That would be most of them. To paraphrase Nate Silver, the average expert, on their best day, is as accurate as a coin toss. I think that’s being a little generous.

The great Congressman Mo Udall once famously said, “I have learned the difference between a cactus and a caucus. On a cactus, the pricks are on the outside.” Considered to be too funny to become president, he told the all time greatest story about Hoya.

He claimed to have given a speech to a group of Native Americans, and every time he made a promise the whole crowd would yell, “Hoya! Hoya! Hoya!” He thought his speech had been a killer, when he was invited to have a look at their ponies afterwards. As he was walking into the horse pen, the chief told him, “Be careful not to step in the Hoya.” There’s a lot of Hoya out there.

Here are my two favorite Hoya’s about chickens, having grown up on a farm where we had 10,000 chickens a year.

Hoya 1: Grass clippings will kill chickens.

Hoya! The only things chickens like better than grass clippings are food, and chicken sex. Kind of like people, except for the chicken sex part. BTW, my clippings are produced by an electric mower, which is recharged with a solar generator.

Hoya 2: Chicken wire isn’t strong enough to keep chickens from escaping.

Hoya! Our 10K chickens never once broke through chicken wire, and we raised hatching eggs, which meant we had roosters that were almost ten pounds. They were mean buggers, and would slam each other into the wire. Maybe I slammed a few into the wire as well, after they attacked me. I disremember.

So use experience as a guide. Chickens survived millennia of evolution because they aren’t stupid. I refuse to comment on the same topic concerning humans. See: Deniers of Anthropomorphic Climate Disturbance, aka Global Warming.