Thursday, September 27, 2012

Finger-lickin' Good!

Years ago, when I first set foot on an organic veggie farm, I devised a theory that the pitiful income made in this business is completely disproportionate to the extravagant meals available each day to all those who dare enter into it.  Chad and I have tested this theory day in and day out, and we find no fault in it.  Tonight's dinner cemented that theory into fact.  Our bellies have warned us that if we ever trade the amazing food we eat for a higher paying job there will be trouble.

This evening's feast that began with perfectly steamed purple artichokes dipped in garlic butter is only one example of the many dishes people pay high prices for either in the store or a restaurant that we eat regularly.  Lately, asparagus has been growing so fast that it must be picked nearly every other day.  It's so tender and sweet that I can't bare to cook it.  We eat it fresh in salads or straight from the garden.  Today Chad yelled halfway across the farm to me, "I just ate a two-foot piece of asparagus and it was delicious!"  Sugar snap peas are coming in strong, as are the heritage lettuces, Detroit dark red beets, and spicy arugula.  Combine these simple veggies with oysters from the beach or a squash leftover from last fall, some freshly baked bread, and 'voila!' a five star meal.  At least by our standards.  We'll be testing out our theory a french chef who's wwoofing with us next month.  Something tells me he'll be quite happy with how we eat here at Uma Rapiti.

We have significantly lowered our butter intake since wwoofers Christina and Zach left a couple of weeks ago.  Until this meal, that is.  (See bowl of melted butter, left, complete with roasted garlic)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Chicken Saga and Veggie Planting


vulgar. Worthless or contemptible (used as a general term of deprecation).

vulgar. A worthless or contemptible person.
    I have developed quite an interesting relationship with the chickens we have here on the farm.  They (we) have come a long way since their arrival here the first week of August.  If you hark back to a previous post, they originally came to us on an adventure specifically engineered to acquire said chickens.  We picked them up in a small suburb south of Auckland called Drury.  We were actually assisted by the fine fellows who run this shop in our frustrating quest to locate a camping spot that would allow us to have Betty Blue.  We tried to pick out four birds that you would be able to tell apart on sight since they were all of the same breed.  Brown Shavers.  We lovingly packed them away in a dog crate, covered them with a sheet to keep them calm since they were also riding with the four-legged, furry death machine, and made our way back to the car ferry for their trip to their new home.
    Here we are now two months later and I now have four feathery, bird-brained buddies.  The ladies and I have developed quite a routine and they are loathe to deviate from it.  Every morning I get up and before Lizzy and I eat, or Betty is fed, I'm off to feed and water the chickens.  Then breakfast for Lizzy and I, then the mutt.  Around 9:30am I wander back over to the chicken shack, "Coop de Tille", check for eggs, and let the ladies out for the day.  This in itself is comedy.  The coop is located in our orchard on one side of the farm, and as soon as the chickens see me walking back toward the sleep-out or the garden beds, they make a mad dash to follow.  We're talking sprints assisted by wing flapping!  Hilarity ensues.
    Through-out the day the girls are left to roam where they will.  They seem quite keen to try and assist you with what ever task you are trying to it working in tool shop trying to fabricate something with a squawking bird under your feet, or attempting to plant veggie starts and having the fool birds scratch them right out. (Note: If you are digging in the dirt or moving mulch around, the girls HAVE to be right there scratching right along side you.  No ifs, ands, or buts about it.  Much to Lizzy's, and the veggie starts' chagrin.)  At the end of the evening I usually have to uproot Pirate from her makeshift roost in the woolshed, then you can see me marching across the farm with one chicken under my arm, dutifully being followed by the other three back to the safety and warmth of the coop.  Let me introduce you to the flock...
The first named bird and the second-most easily recognized chicken.  She has a short-cropped upper beak giving her a severe under-bite look, and is darker in color then the rest.   She is also at the top of the pecking order.  Funny, since she is the smallest of the chickens.
About two weeks ago something happened to her left eye causing it to become discolored and swollen.  We believe she is now blind in it and keeps it closed most of the time.  Hence: Pirate!  She is also our only bird not laying as of yet, and might have a short stay here on the farm.  Neither Lizzy or myself has the heart to dispatch her and we are in discussion as to what to do.

"Chicken" Noodle
Noodle and Henrietta are very seldom seen apart.  She seems to be the most friendly of the girls so far and will follow me all over the place.  Mainly to see what I'm scratching up in the dirt, but she tolerates me playing with her and picking her up all the time.  You can tell her by the single black tail feather she has.

This lady is the most individually-minded and strong-willed of all the chickens.  Friendly and amiable to humans, tolerant of Betty, but doesn't like to be picked up, pet, or messed with in general.  She is also the most vocal of all the birds, making a wide range of calls and sounds through-out the day.  Also named for my grandma.  I did it out of love!  I swear!

    When I was in Montana, I couldn't stand the chickens on the farm.  There were over 100 of the damnable birds everywhere, in everything, pooping on anything.  The porch, the skidsteer seat, in my shoe.  They were the epitome of my arch-nemesis.  If I could kick one firmly in her feathered backside, I felt just and righteous.  I never wanted a single bird on my future farm.  I have to say, I have changed my tune.  I can't imagine a farm without a couple of these girls running around.  I think all it took was a reduction in numbers and full injection of personality.  The funny bit is that Lizzy's patience with the birds is wearing thin since they get into everything, but she still manages to find compassion for the damn dog.  Myself, give me chickens any day and ship Betty Blue off to the nearest sheep farm. As for the chickenshit, well, we're finding out it's not so worthless or contemptible after all!

Before the "Makeover" and sans fence and grape trellis
Lizzy updating the veggie board

Finished fence, clean beds, chicken helpers, and what's "In Season"

I thought I would also include a little snippet about the veggie beds as well.  Lizzy has been working her rear off in the greenhouse and the upper beds over the past month and it is really paying off!  A few weeks ago we had couple with us from New York Wwoofing and we spent two days going to town weeding, cleaning, and rebuilding the raised beds in the upper garden.  Accompanied by a new fence to keep out the chickens, dog, and rabbits, this has rapidly become the heart of the farm.  Our greenhouse is located here as well and anytime I want to know where my better half is, I don't have far to look.  We are now eating about 2/3 or more of our veggies fresh from the garden.  Click on the picture with the chalkboard for a more detailed view of whats "In Season".  

Here's to your health and till next time!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Many Ways to Cook a Snapper

I buried a fish in the future corn bed today.  I do hope that it's corn that you're supposed to bury a fish with.  If it's not, we have enough to bury in all of the garden beds!  Ever since Chad discovered how much he loves fishing a couple of months ago we've had an abundant supply of fresh fish.  While Chad's out getting his hunter gatherer on, I come up with different ways to cook snapper.  So far we've had fried snapper fillets, grilled snapper, baked snapper, smoked snapper, snapper soup, snapper curry, snapper tacos, and multiple variations of fried fish cakes.

While I think Chad's a little tired of eating fish, I can't get enough of it.  And of course I always love a good kitchen challenge.  I think next we're going to have it sushi style!  Unfortunately, the freezer can't handle anymore fish stock, but even so, nothing goes to waste around here.  The chickens are given first choice on the carcases and the rest go into the compost pile.  Chad and I have debated whether or not this is a good idea, given the rats, the dog, the smell, but I just can't pass up an opportunity to add all of that good stuff to the garden once it breaks down.

In addition to catching fish to liven up our meals, we've also been taking advantage of the oysters and mussels that inhabit the beach nearby.  I love handing a hammer and  a bucket to our wwoofers and saying "It's low tide.  Let's go collect lunch!"

The vegetable garden is coming along.  We've been munching on plenty of salad greens, sugar snap peas, kale, chard, radishes, broccoli, spring onions, leeks, carrots, and asparagus.  The tomatoes and peppers are sprouting in the greenhouse and I think I even saw an okra sprout today!  At least I think it's okra.  I've never seen okra growing before.  Even more exciting than the okra, though, is the luffa that is sprouting.  Luffa, as in the bath sponge.  I'm growing bath sponges.  It's going to be a hit.  Too bad that by the time they're ready to use we won't have enough water to actually take baths.

The plum trees are beginning to blossom and as long as the wind isn't blowing rotting fish smell your direction the orchard is heavenly to walk through.  Chad and I, with help from our wwoofers, recently added two almonds, two pistachios, four macadamia nuts, a walnut, two pears, a peach, an apricot, and a plum to the orchard.  We also planted two grape vines along the garden fence.  We've been so happy to see that the sad looking twigs we put in the ground last month are now beginning to show signs of life.  The grapes, especially, show visible growth each day.

When we're not working in the garden we entertain ourselves by...

   trimming Chad's beard,

Jumping off big rocks,

And watching monks create pictures with tiny bits of colored sand.  
Never a dull moment....