Monday, March 22, 2010


Sunday afternoon the chickens were out on rec around 5 pm.  Steve was in the kitchen making coffee and I was in the potting shed starting seeds.  From the back window I saw the chickens scrounging around the asparagus patch along the fence.  I turned my head back to the seeds.  Suddenly there was a commotion - loud squawking.  I turned my head to see the chickens turn suddenly like Catholic schoolchildren when the morning bell rings in the schoolyard - they just went single file and disappeared into the forsythia bush.  Something was up.
Steve wasn't hearing this, so I walked back there and the one hen was squawking like crazy right next to the forsythia, and the other girls were nestled tightly together in the bush.  I counted only five.  One chicken was missing.  I looked around for feathers..  Finally Steve came out and we both saw in the other corner of the yard that a large black bird had cornered our chicken.  Steve poked the hawk with a pole and the bird flew into the neighbor's tree, keeping an eye.  Bells jingled, and I thought I saw the bells around the bird's feet.  The chicken rushed backed into the pen, which was right there.
A man appeared in the other yard.  He had been chasing his bird all the way down here.  Meanwhile Steve was in the back checking out the other chickens.  I went back there - he said we got to get the chickens back in the pen.  I took one in my arms and walked down the yard.  Suddenly there was the hawk again flying right at me from a few yards away, wings spread.  I ducked curling into my chicken.  It felt like I went into a heavy wind. I got to the cage and opened the door and threw in the chicken.  Steve was saying, "Annie go back into the potting shed!"  I'm thinking what is this macho thing.  I'm not going to hide in the shed.  I haven't done any harm.
When I walked back over to the driveway, the man was there and he had caught his hawk in some kind of device around his finger.  He was apologetic but we were thrilled to see the hawk.  He said it was a Harris hawk and he had been up at the municipal golf course at the bottom of the lake, when the hawk took off - it must have seen the chickens.  Now Steve suggested I get the camera.  I got some pictures, but they're not developed yet.  I still don't have a digital camera or a camera on my cellphone. 
When I walked back to the potting shed, I noticed my hand was all bloody.  I guess the chicken dug in when the hawk tried to convince me to drop her.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Eggs for sale

We started with chickens last year, and it's been a success - perhaps too much of a success.  We have more eggs than we know what to do with.  We've given a lot away, but it would be nice to sell at least some of them to cover some of the feed costs. 

The chickens are beautiful Golden Comets - fairly quiet; good for our mixed-use semi-wild West End neighborhood.  They're a little scrawny for meat, but they sure lay a lot of eggs, even all winter long.  Here's a picture of them in the garden last summer.  Now we let them range all over the yard a few times a day.  (More pictures to come.)

I used to just eat one egg sandwich a week, but I've been working on increasing my egg consumption, and it's been very good!  Now the burritos often include some scrambled eggs.  I tucked some hard-boiled egg into the pita with felafel and tabouli today.  For last Sunday brunch, tried Scandinavian-style and had sardines and hard-boiled egg on sour corn rye toast; couldn't help adding some of that Capricho with black pepper goat cheese that they sell at the GreenStar.  I would love to barter with the cheesemakers for some eggs!

Meanwhile I'll barter with anyone through the genius of Ithaca Hours.  We just need a few regular customers.  Bonuses from the garden available during the harvest season!  You can contact me at gardensfirst at if you're interested in some eggs.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cabbage two ways

Inspiration for cooking wanes in the bleak days of February when very little of last summer's bounty is still left in the larders, and the days of fresh still seem far off.  I was moved to buy an organic cabbage and first used more than half of it to make kimchee – the simple version according to Tassajara Cooking.  It's a two-day process rather than the longer traditional fermenting. 


Day 1

Cut cabbage into bite-size chunks and put into non-reactive glass or ceramic bowl.

Mix with ~1 ½ T salt.

Mix.  Press down with a plate on top and a weight.

Store overnight in the refrigerator.

Day 2

Pour off accumulated water.  The salty water can be saved for soup.

Add garlic, ginger, toasted sesame seeds, and red papper to taste.

Store in glass or other non-reactive containers in refrigerator.

Kimchee is a delicious additive to add kinds of things – salads, pita sandwiches, soups…
OK still another half a cabbage left.  There are some carrots in the hydrator too.  Ah, masala!  Masala is a mixture of vegetables, with Indian spices.  My introduction to the basic recipe for masala came from another of my early favorite cookbooks from the seventies, The Golden Temple Vegetarian Cookbook(These are the cookbooks I actually learned to cook from back in the seventies when I was in my twenties.  I learned to make bread from the detailed directions in The Tassajara Bread Book.)  As with many of the recipes in the Tassajara, this one can be adapted to use many different kinds of vegetables according to what it is available and what turns the cook on. 

Vegetable masala – Basic masala for curry

Cut several cups of vegetables in advance.  This time I'm using just cabbage and carrots, but any combination you think is compatible works..

Heat 1/3 cup oil – sesame is best

Fry up 2 or 3 onions; add 2 T minced ginger and a few cloves minced garlic

After the holy trinity (i.e. onions, garlic, and ginger!) is soft and fragrant, add 1 tsp jeera (either cumin seed or caraway seed), 1 tsp turmeric, a tsp of garam masala*, ¼ tsp or more cayenne pepper and salt to taste.

Stir for a couple more minutes and then add a couple tomatoes (fresh or canned).  The tomatoes are optional.

After that is cooked down, add the several cups of vegetables.  When it comes back to heat, add some water, and lower heat and cover til cooked, stirring occasionally. 
* garam masala is a mixture of spices, so if you don't have that, you can just put in a little of various spices according to taste including cumin, coriander, cardamom, pepper, cloves, cinammon.