Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Shaggy Parasols

A brief mushrooming expedition through our local wilds, with a knowledgeable mycologist neighbor, led us to identify and harvest a small quantity of late flushing Shaggy Parasols.  The first two pictures are actually specimens I found down on the bottom of our property under some Eucalyptus trees the day before.  I pulled them out to get a proper ID from our friend who confirmed they were indeed Shaggy Parasols.  

These mushrooms can be huge with a pleasant aromatic odor, and taste to me like what I imagine beef would taste like (or maybe vegi beef from a vegetarians perspective).  
REALLY delicious and flavorful!  The Shaggy Parasol can be prepared the same way as the Chanterelle, cooking for a long period of time to break down the chitin.

It was exciting to find these first wild edible mushrooms on our hillside and now that I know where they will bloom I can check back in that spot each year.  

Remember, caution must be exercised when identifying the Shaggy Parasol, whose poisonous look alike, the Green Spored Lepiota can be very dangerous.  Of course always use the utmost caution when identifying ALL wild mushrooms! 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Crimson and Clover

"If you're brave enough to say goodbye, 
life will reward you with a new hello."
-Paulo Coelho

After a monstrously busy week, Friday evening was coming to a close.  The sun had just set, time to go down the hill to retrieve the goats to their nightly residence in the barn.  As I approach their corral, there is Bella, lying on the hillside in the dirt, her large body contracting up and down.  I steady myself knowing this is the moment I've been waiting for, except...I'm home alone with just my younger son.  So I quickly rush the other goats up the hill and into their stalls, run inside, gather a big basket and fill it with some essentials (blankets, towels, peroxide/iodine, latex gloves, some baling twine, lubricant, my cell phone).  I holler to my boy to get some warm clothes on, "Bella's having her baby!"  He decides to make her a treat of a mixture of grains with molasses just in case.  He also makes her some molasses water.  I put on my trusty headlamp and head down the hill only to find....  

can you see the face?

her sac protruding, not quite as much at first as you see in the picture, just a bit of it with a hint of a hoof showing.  Even though I thought I had well versed myself on the ins and outs of goat birth, I immediately freak out.  You see, I've never participated in birthing an animal before.  The only births I've been present at are my own and those of my two children, where I was a key player.  

So I call my wonderful midwife neighbor who graciously rushes over and we call a helpful friend who has experience birthing her own goats.  Together the three of us make a great team.  (Thank you ladies!!)  The whole charade lasted about three hours, with a little intervention on our part in the beginning.  

And of course my son was the best eight year old doula ever!  What an amazing experience for us all.  

Bella has turned out to be a terrific mom to her twin boys.  Yes, twin boys..and what will we do with two boys?  Well, we will love them and enjoy them while they are here.  They sure are the cutest little guys.   Welcome Crimson and Clover! 

Once again, we are humbled and overflowing with gratitude for these enriching life experiences.  Three more ladies are due in the next few weeks so it will be a genuine nursery around here.  Hope your spring is filled with abundance!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Our Family Cow

Meet Ginger, our lovely new Jersey girl.  She has been with us for a little over a week and it is safe to say we are all quite taken with her.  Ginger is a yearling heifer (I'm learning all the cow lingo) and a dream come true for me.  She is pregnant and due in October.  Although sweet and gentle she is not yet halter broken, which means we have some work to do with her to get her tame enough to walk with us where we want her to go.  But so far she is making fast progress.  I remember back in my vegan days saying to someone that I would never drink cows milk unless I had my own cow.  Well, here we are.  Somehow, all of a sudden, our little farm feels complete.   

In all the excitement, I am trying not to be naive about how much work she may be.  We are phasing out our rabbit operation, selling some of the goats (after kidding of course), and generally trying to get things in tip top shape around here.  The main concern has been pasture management, getting rid of the poison hemlock, cutting down some foxtails, making plans to sow some good nutritious cover crops for her.  But for now, each day we are busy trying to get her used to us and with all the hustle, she seems to be settling in just fine.

Reaching out to some knowledgeable friends has been helpful in getting down the basics like, how much alfalfa to supplement with, what are the important vaccinations, which trimester to add grain to her diet, etc. 

Besides the fact that I'm dreaming of milk (butter and cheese too!), it is so fascinating to get acquainted with her, learn her personality and establish what I hope will be a very long friendship (dare I say love affair?).  And did I mention she really loves oranges? 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spring Planting

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your
one wild and precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Rain or shine we have been working hard to get the garden together.  With the warm spring rains the weeds and grasses have been growing like crazy.  We sure have our work cut out for us, and with full time work schedules, we never feel like there is enough time to get the planting done.  But little by little the seed flats are getting emptied and new seedlings started.  Here are some of the heirloom varieties we are trying out this season...

Blue Hubbard-  110 days.  C. maxima.  Huge, teardrop-shaped fruit weigh 15-40 lbs. and have sweet, fine-grained, golden flesh. Great for baking, pies, and soup. The hard, blue-gray shell helps these keep for long periods in storage.
Delicata- 100 days.  C. pepo.  High sugar content, fruit are 1-3 lbs. each and skin color is rust-white with green stripes. Delicate sweet flavor.
Oregon Sweet Meat-  95 days.  C. maxima.  A delicious heirloom from Oregon; excellent flavored deep orange flesh is very sweet. Fruit are large and flattened in shape (somewhat like a Rouge Vif D’Etampes). Skin color is beautiful deep sea blue-green.
Kabocha-  C. maxima.  A popular green-skinned Japanese squash that's shaped like a buttercup, but without the "cup" on the bottom. Rich yellow orange flesh is of excellent quality, being sweet, fine-textured and nutty tasting. Perfect for baking and making delicious pumpkin curries and breads.

Northern Lights55 days.  4-inch, round beefsteak with orange-yellow color and a red center and a wonderful, intense tomato flavor.  Bears until frost.
Green Zebra75-80 days.  Very deep green zebra stripes. Sweet zingy flavor. Very productive plants. Favored by chefs and found at specialty and farmers markets.
Pink Caspian80 days.  From southern Russia’s warm Caspian Sea region is often called the “Queen of the Pinks,” with an incredibly sweet and juicy fruit that often reach one pound and occasionally larger. Will do well in cooler areas.
Cherokee Purple75-90 days.  Uniquely colored dusty-rose-brown fruit weigh up to 12 ounces. Delicious, sweet flesh.

Tamarillo (Tree Tomato)-  Solanum betaceum is a small tree or shrub in the flowering plant family Solanaceae. It is best known as the species that bears the tamarillo, an egg-shaped edible fruit. Other names include tree tomato and tomate de ├írbol.  The plant is a fast-growing tree that grows up to 5 meters. Peak production is reached after 4 years, and the life expectancy is about 12 years.
Tree SpinachChenopodium giganteum is a very large annual leafy vegetable that grows over 8 feet tall. It is also known as Tree Spinach, native to mountainous regions of India.  It is a leafy green which tastes like very much like chard or spinach with a hint of asparagus when cooked.
Bloody Butcher Corn-  100-110 days.  Zea mays.  Known in the U.S. since 1845; originally from Virginia. Plants grow up to 12' tall and have at least two ears per stalk; each ear is 8-12" long. Striking maroon and red-black kernels. Used for flour, cornmeal, or corn-on-the-cob when young. Good drought tolerance. Great for fall decorations.
Red Seeded Asparagus Bean-  75 days. Very long pods grow to 24”.  Very tender and tasty; no strings, small seeds; huge yields on 10’vines. They grow well under almost any conditions– very resistant to heat, humidity and insects; great for the South. Pick for snap beans when 12”-14” long; delicious stir-fried!

There has been much preoccupation with a new addition to our farm.  A bit of last minute building going on...lots of walking and mending fence lines, identifying and planning removal of noxious weeds from the pasture, as well as, talking to older, experienced neighbors for advice and support.  Stay tuned for more info coming soon.  We are so excited and praying all goes well!

Photos by Lori Eanes 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring Cleansing

One way of purifying the mind is by attitude, by the right attitude towards life.  That is the moral way and the royal road to purification.  A person may breath and sit in silence a thousand postures but if he does not have the right attitude towards life he will never develop.  It is upon one's attitude that one's whole life depends. 
-Hazrat Inayat Khan

Spring is a time of renewal, of new beginnings and new intentions.  This can look many different ways for some of us.  Whether we give our homes an extra deep cleaning, make a vision board of our dreams for the year, go for meditative hikes, or do some journaling.  The goal is reflection and to start fresh.  To let go of old habits or inhibitions that held us back, working toward becoming our higher selves.  Creating ritual is an important way to celebrate and welcome the spirit of newness.  One way I like to do this, with the help of my green allies, is to make sage bundles or smudge sticks. The plants that are called sage can come from very different plant families, some from the salvias and some from the artemesia family.  But my favorite plant sister is California white sage (salvia apiana) for her powerful cleansing abilities.  Used for generations throughout the world, white sage can both heal and cleanse away or "wash off" the outside world.  Native American tribes use white sage for many purposes, among them for ceremonies and purification. 

We happen to have a gorgeous white sage plant growing in our medicine wheel.  After all the rain we have been getting it has leafed out and is ready for a small harvest.  You do not need to take much when you harvest sage.  It is strong medicine and a little goes a long way. 

Once you harvest several nice leafy tips, collect some attractive yarn or twine you like.  It must be either organic cotton or wool, no synthetic fibers.  (This is very important because the yarn will burn when you smudge.)  Separate your sage into small bouquets and gently wrap with the yarn.  You can wrap more densely at the bottom to make a handle. 

Dry your bundles for a week or two and when they are no longer wet they are ready to burn as smudge sticks. 

Sage or any other herb bundles make wonderful gifts and look beautiful hanging in your kitchen window or sitting on a mantel.  I also like to hang herb bundles in the shower to let off their essential oils with the steam or hide them away in our dresser drawers for wonderful smelling linens.   Try tossing one into the dryer with your clothes now and then.  Other aromatic herbs you can make bundles with to hang around your home are lavender, rosemary, geranium, marjoram, thyme, oregano, or any edible medicinal.