Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sweet Sunshine and Sweet Beets

Peacefully basking in the sunshine while
two geese attentively keep watch.
      What could be better than a good dose of sunshine?  The wild birds were singing this morning, and the geese found restful peace sleeping in the sunshine. The silence was broken with the high pitched call that announced my approach. Their swimming pond is still frozen over, and I think that they are eagerly awaiting warm weather. Then the guard goose won't have to balance on one leg to keep the other warm.

     Today's recipe is adapted from Hobby Farm Home magazine and website.  Even if you think that you don't like beets you will like this recipe.  The beets are sweet and delicious as well as quick and easy to make. YUM!

Beets with Maple Syrup and Horseradish
2 lb red beets, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 medium white or yellow onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp. butter
3 tsp cream-style prepared horseradish
3 Tbsp raspberry vinegar

Layer beets and onions in a shallow dish. Stir the maple syrup, butter, horseradish, and vinegar over medium heat until butter is melted and almost to a boil.  Pour over the beets and onions.
Cover tightly and bake at 400 for 1 hour.  Remove cover after 30 minutes.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Winter's Back/Comfort Food Needed

Ah, confusion.  What happened to the swimming pond last night?

     This recipe is great for a chilly night.  It comes together rather quickly and can be ready for the table within an hour. Yes, I have made this more than one.  The fennel creates and interesting and nice flavor - don't leave it out.  Otherwise, you just have meat and pasta.
     I made a few changes that I've noted in ( ).  Unless it is for a special occasion or simply can't be done, I try to replace  heavy cream in recipes.  It just has too many calories.
    This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit.  Search their recipes to find it.

Tortellini with Sausage, Fennel, and Mushrooms
1  tbsp olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced lengthwise (about 3 cups), fronds chopped
1 lb. Italian sausage (hot or sweet, or chorizo)
1 8-ounce package sliced fresh crimini (baby bella) mushrooms (I used one pound white mushrooms)
4 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 tbsp fennel seeds, coarsely crushed
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (I used half-and-half plus potato starch flour to thicken)
1 cup chicken broth (needed more to keep it from being too dry)
1 16-ounce pkg. dried tortellini with pesto filling or fresh tortellini with 3-cheese filling
1 5-ounce pkg fresh baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (extra for serving)
     Cook tortellini until tender, but still firm. 
     Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and begin to brown.  Then add fennel and mushrooms; sauté until sausage is brown and cooked through and fennel is almost tender, 12 to 15 minutes.   
     Add garlic and fennel seeds; stir 1 minute. Stir in cream (half-and-half), then 1 cup broth; boil until liquid is reduced and very slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.  (Add potato starch flour to thicken if using half-and-half.) 
    Add tortellini to sausage. Toss over medium heat until blended. Add spinach; toss until spinach wilts. Stir in cheese. If too dry add small amounts of chicken broth/ half-and-half as desired. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with chopped fennel fronds. Pass additional grated cheese.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Taste of Spring!

        At last a break from the bitter cold.  My gaggle of geese took a stroll away from their frozen pond in search of anything that might be green.
        Only seven geese are out because the eighth goose was holed up in the goose house laying an egg.  Do they realize I'm the one taking their precious eggs?  I guess not. I'm fairly sure it would be hard for a goose to raise goslings in such cold weather.  In another month I'll let mother nature take over.  For right now I have plenty of blown goose eggs to use for crafts.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Meet Angel

      This photo shows the absolute closest anyone has been to this cat. She let our dog, Shiloh come right up to her today and stayed to watch me clean the barn.  Her story began last fall, on a foggy sort of night, right about dusk, a scruffy looking creature appeared in a faceoff with our cat, Mickey.  Neither a kitten nor a cat, it was a ball with fur sticking straight out as though it had just come off the set of  "Pet Sematary." For weeks she would appear out of nowhere, then in the blink of an eye disappear.  She reminded me of the Alabama country song "I Believe There Are Angels Among Us." So Angel is her name.  Angel doesn't belong to us, but we belong to her.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Kitty capers help winter doldrums

  No matter the winter weather there is always at least one animal that provides amusement to start the day.  I was witness to this successful kitty battle with an attack branch.  This barn kitty, aka Ring-tail Red, is the absolute best at battling inanimate objects, making them move, and conquering the foe.   

Careful on the approach

Circle to the left
Circle to the right
This whole battle took at least five minutes.   The result - kitty 1, branch 0.  No wonder it takes so long to get the morning chores done, but it makes me start with a smile.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Once upon a pond . . .

Maybe my journey to become a hobby farmer began with a cool, April day while I stood looking at our small, but nicely-sized pond all surrounded with weeds and prickly bushes.  I remember having what I have come to call my "Hey, wait a minute," moment.  It was either accept the neglected pond never cared for or "Hey, wait a minute; I can do something positive about this." 

So for two months I chose a clump of prickly bushes and attacked.  Slowly, but surely, I liberated the pond.  From there the plans grew.  I dropped rocks in the area where the spring entered the pond to rid that area of mud.  Each year brought a new project - creating a rock dock to watch the water and anything that might move in my fishless pond, planting water lilies and marginal pond plants, to perennial flowers around the edge.

Somewhere in the process I came across a magazine called Hobby Farm Home.  Within those pages I found wonderful possibilities for our small corner of country.  I started with babydoll sheep.  Hey, wait a minute - don't we need sheep to help mow our lawn and fertilize, too?  If it was good enough for Thomas Jefferson, well . . . count me in! In Hobby Farm Home I found information about Brown Chinese Geese - great weeder birds.  Hey, wait a minute - I have weeds, I have a pond, that will work!  We now have our lawn mowers and weeders.  It seems there were also some Buckeye chickens featured in Hobby Farm Home.  Hey, wait a minute I have a farm, and horses, and sheep, and geese - why not chickens? We could use some eggs.  The rest is history. 

I love the farm and I am fascinated by the interaction of all the animals.  Who knew that one could retire from teaching only to discover that in your heart you really were meant to be a hobby farmer?