Saturday, June 26, 2010

You don't always have to start from the beginning.

I make most of our pickles from cucumbers or other vegetables that DH raises in the garden. Usually from seeds he started, often from seeds we've saved. But not always.

A friend served these pickles at a Garden Club luncheon a few months ago and everyone present asked for the recipe. They're that good. And they start with a jar of dill pickles.

Pat's Cajun Pickles

1 gallon whole dill pickles
7-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup tarragon vinegar
1 to 2 ounces Tabasco sauce (I use the full amount but we like the heat)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, sliced

Drain and discard the pickle juice.  Slice pickles. Mix vinegar, Tabasco sauce, and garlic together.

Layer pickle slices, onion slices, sugar and vinegar mix in emptied pickle jar. Put on the lid and seal with plastic wrap because the lid invariably leaks during rolling.

Lay jar on its side on counter (you may want to put a folded kitchen towel under the jar to stop it from accidental rolling). Roll the jar to mix ingredients. I tilted and sort of shook mine to get the blending started but that's not required. The sugar will eventually dissolve if you remember to roll the jar several times each day. Let set on counter for 7 days before eating. You can refrigerate after the time's up if you want.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

R.I.P. Abby

We had to put our Jacob ewe down this morning.

Abby (short for Abilene -- she was named for her hometown, a small Virginia crossroads where she was born over 12 years ago) was a one-of-a-kind sheep.  She never completely lost her wariness of people though she learned to like animal crackers, a frequent sheep treat around here.  And only in the last few years did she stop giving DH a real run for the money when it came time for shearing and other routine care such as foot trimmings or wormings.  More than once she's leaped over the 4-ft gates he set up behind the barn to facilitate capture.  The other sheep would gather docilely at the gate after being herded into the pen but not Abby.

We still laugh, DH not so loud, about the time she leaped right over him on a successful attempt to get back out to the field and away from the shearing pen.  The funny thing was, once she was in the hands of the shearer (usually DH tho we hired a local Virginia Tech student till DH had a chance to take the 2-day VA/NC Shepherds Workshop then offered down the road at VT's Shenandoah Valley Ag Research and Extension Center at Steeles Tavern), she was a different sheep.  Calmly she'd accept her fate and let herself be flipped first one way then the other as the shearer worked to remove her lovely thick coat.  Her springy wool made a pretty heathery black yarn as the small splotches of white and brown in her coat blended with the rest of her mostly black wool in the final product. (Her coat would sunburn on the tips making her look more brown as the wool locks lengthened after each shearing but underneath was a rich black.)

Because of her coloring, black legs, black face with a wide white stripe down the middle and a mostly-black coat with a few white and brown patches, many people thought she was a goat on first (or even second) sight -- especially right after shearing when no thick wool gave her away.  But we knew she just acted like one. (Myself, I always thought she looked like a holstein calf after shearing.)  And as the smallest of the sheep, year in and year out, she would bounce around, trying to exert her dominance, when the others were sheared each spring.  I think it's because sheep always look so much smaller right after the shearer finishes and Abby imagined she was now (finally!) the biggest of the flock.

Abby was the sheep that hung back when the others gathered 'round for their treats.  She often stayed on the far side of Andy, the guard llama, using him as a shield in case anyone should try to make a grab for her.  But with lots of coaxing, over more than a year, animal crackers became too much for her to resist and she finally succumbed to closing in enough that she could share in the bounty, too.

With age, though, she became less agile.  We could tell that a couple of years ago when she began putting up only a token chase at shearing time and completely ceased jumping the gates.  Early this spring, before DH sheared, she'd even gotten down several times and was unable to stand again without help.  Each time it happened, one of us would have to go out and hoist her to her feet. 

The good news was it seemed to help her lose most of the remaining shyness with people.  Since we'd moved the sheep closer to the house after a serious coyote scare early this past Mother's Day morning, Abby'd even baa and call to us as the other sheep do when we'd be out and about in the backyard -- reminding us that animal crackers were always welcome, I think.  We hoped the mobility problem would go away when she was no longer encumbered by her heavy fleece but it didn't and veterinarians, like any other medical doctors, can only offer so much help.  It was time.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Holly-dog meets a skunk: the aftermath

Holly-dog met a skunk.  It was not an amicable meeting.  Holly-dog had to have a bath. Immediately.

Always before I've used tomato juice to wash a dog that was sprayed by a skunk but this time DH used a recipe I'd clipped from Country Living. It's inexpensive, I had all the ingredients on hand and I thought it might be easier to wash out of her fur than home-canned tomato juice. I won't know for sure till she gets wet again but this seemed to do a good job.

Dog Bath for Skunk Encounters

32 ounces hydrogen peroxide
1/4 cup baking soda
1 tablespoon shampoo or dish detergent

Mix together right before use. Mixture may fizz or build up pressure in tightly-closed container so don't plan on storing it for another time. Use it all.

Wash, rinse and repeat if you still have soap mixture. Let mixture stay on fur for 5-10 minutes before rinsing.

Bath time is not a favorite with Holly but she's usually very stoic about it. Today you might even say she enjoyed it as DS had something with which to bribe her.
Some friends are on the path to a second adoption from Africa. One of their daughters is contributing to the effort by baking and selling "Rachel's Beefy Biscuits for Dogs." Holly-dog thought they were spot-on.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Surprise! Look what Bandit hatched.

Yes, it's a chick but it's still a big surprise.  We only noticed Bandit was broody last week.  Bandit is a backyard girl, a 9-mo pullet who was herself hatched by Fifi late last summer.
Apparently she was stealthily broody long before last week.  (It takes 23 days to hatch a chicken egg.) And she's an egg thief, to boot.

Unless we swap out the backyard girls' eggs with some likely-to-be-fertile eggs from the hens in the mobile coop, their eggs won't hatch.  Well, except for Mrs. Badger's eggs.  She's a little grey Silkie we added to the backyard on April 30 along with her mate, Badger,  He halfheartedly tries to cover one or two of the fullsize backyard girls but let's just say he hasn't gotten the hang of it yet.  So Bandit must have swiped one of Mrs. Badger's eggs and added it to her nest.

So what Bandit hatched is a little grey Silkie.  What a turnaround.  In one chick pen we have Bandit, a full-size hen, with her suspected bantam chick.  And next door, in another chick pen, is Snowball, a little white Silkie, and her now-2-and-a-half-week-old chicks who will grow up to be full-size chickens.  (Looking like 2 cockerels and 2 Turken pullets but time will tell.) 
And we can't forget Echa, the 3yo Turken and first-time mother in the mobile pen, who decided it's never too late to try hatching an egg. She sat on four eggs in one of the raised nest boxes in the wheeled coop but only one egg hatched. Mama hen and chick are doing fine in the third chick pen we set up, this time inside the electric netting. 

DS is ecstatic that we have Turken chicks. He's hoped for that ever since we got the three original Turkens (Turkey, Echa and Misha) as part of a day-old chick order. DH is very pleased that "his girl, Echa" came through with a chick after several weeks of impatient waiting. And I'm trying to figure out how we can set up another two chick pens because Mrs. Badger, the grey Silkie in the backyard, and Amelia Earhart, one of the new Turkens added to the mobile pen April 30, are both determined to brood their eggs. When it rains it pours.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Preserved Bean Sprouts (dua gia)

3 cups water
1 tablespoon salt (pickling salt or 1-1/4 tablespoon kosher salt)
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 pound mung bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
1 carrot, cut into very thin strips or shaved with a vegetable peeler

Bring water, salt and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan.  Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Pack the bean sprouts and carrot shavings together in a 2-quart jar.  Pour the cooled brine over the vegetables and cover the opening with a towel.  Don't worry if  the brine doesn't cover the veggies completely to begin with.  After an hour or so the liquid and vegetables will equalize or you can press the veggies down with a spoon to get them below the level of the brine.  Cover the jar loosely and let it stand on the counter at room temperature for 3 days.  Taste to be sure the bean sprouts are sour enough, then cap the jar tightly and refrigerate it.  The sprouts will keep for 3-4 weeks.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lots of pickles but no cucumbers yet.

When I was a kid, pickles meant pickled cucumbers. Even pickled beets weren't really considered pickles. But now when I think of pickles, my mind races with the possibilities.

The sugar snap pea vines are producing like mad.  We pick in the morning and by the next evening the vines look loaded again.  Monday I prepared a batch of Pickled Sugar Snap Peas from Linda Ziedrich's The Joy of Pickling, Revised Edition: 250 Flavor-Packed Flavor-Packed Recipes for Vegetables and More from Garden or Market.  The directions say to let them set in the fridge for 2 weeks but DS and I tried them last night (barely 24 hours) and they're tasting pretty good. Maybe they'll last long enough to try them at the proper time or maybe they won't.

Tuesday, while DH and DS went on another hike with the WILD GUYde, Lester Zook, and some other homeschoolers, I took advantage of the morning spent in Harrisonburg.  Besides the usual stops at the downtown library and A World of Good thrift store, I went by  a Taste of Thai's food market to pick up a few groceries. 
I bought lots of bean sprouts because I planned to make Ziedrich's Vietnamese Pickled Bean Sprouts plus Bean Sprout Salad in Outrageous Dressing, a great summer salad that becomes a main dish when I add cold cooked chicken or shrimp.  After setting on the counter overnight, the fermenting bean sprouts look like this and, after another day or two at room temperature, the taste will be pretty mild.  Makes them a good accompaniment to spicy or rich foods.

I cut up the last of the garden's daikon radishes for another fresh pickle so the refrigerator's full for the time being.  The beets are ready in the garden but I think I still have plenty of beet pickles canned and on the shelf from last year so they'll probably be prepared some other way.  DS and I like them steamed and plain but I might try something different to tempt DH.