Wednesday, June 28, 2006

We love Liz

Now that May's Eat Local Challenge is over, Liz at Pocket Farm has come up with a new challenge. She calls it One Local Summer.

The concept is as follows: Participants agree to make one dinner entirely out of local foods during each of the twelve weeks of summer, starting this week and continuing through Saturday, September 16. The only non-local ingredients allowed are oil, salt, pepper, spices and herbs, and condiments and sauces. Everything else should be from your local foodshed (usually defined as a 100-mile radius, or as close as you can get to it).

Because Liz rocks, she has sweetened the deal by offering prizes. Every time participants make a completely local dinner and supply photographic evidence, they get a chance to win a market bag from the Eat Local Challenge Cafe Press store. She'll draw a name every fourth week. It's not too late to join--just go to Pocket Farm and sign up.

Obviously, I'm participating. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't be writing this and accompanying it by a photo of food!

Here's our entry for Week 1. As I put it together, I tried valiantly to stay within a 100-mile radius. I suspect that as the crow flies, I came awfully close. But in terms of highway miles as calculated by Mapquest, this is how it all shook out:

Pork loin chops - from Dyal Farms, Cobbtown, Ga. (132 miles); processed in Millen, Ga. (120 miles)

Fresh sage - our own (0 miles)

Braised Parmex carrots - our own (0 miles)

Carolina Gold rice - from Anson Mills, Columbia, S.C. (144 miles)

I feel very, very close to the food we ate. Those pork chops? I personally cut them from half a carcass of a humanely grown pig that we bought from Mary Dyal, a lovely person with whom I spoke on the phone several times. (FYI, besides being pig farmers, the Dyals are also among the very, very few organic Vidalia onion producers in the state. They are really wonderful, principled people.) I picked the half-pig up from the processor myself and was given a tour of the facility.

The carrots? They're gorgeous. After trying to grow regular pointy carrots in our heavy Georgia soil and ending up with monstrous deformed horrors, I switched to Parmex seeds and have been rewarded with delightful little globes of carrot-y goodness.

The sage? It grows outside the kitchen door.

The rice? Stop what you are doing right now and call Anson Mills. Carolina Gold rice is an heirloom variety, delicious beyond compare, and when you order it you will get the opportunity to talk to a person who is so spectacularly, delightfully geeky on the subject of grain that it will blow your mind. I smiled for hours after placing my order. They care that much.

Stay tuned for next week's entry...


To: Feral Cat
Re: This afternoon

Dear Sir or Madam,

This afternoon one of our Black Japanese bantam hens escaped. You saw fit to chase and kill her, leaving a trail of feathers and a carcass for me to find next to the garden. Please be advised that we do not approve of killing for sport, and that if you try it again, we will be obliged to fetch the BB gun.

We would appreciate it if you limit your activities to rat and mouse removal in the future.

Jamie and the s.o.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

How to make the best, easiest ice cream ever

It's so simple, you're going to think I've left part of it out. Here we go:


Whisk together:
1 c. heavy cream
2/3 c. sweetened condensed milk
3 heaping Tbs. malted milk powder
1/2 c. strong cold coffee (if a few fine grounds get into the mix, so much the better)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Freeze in an ice cream maker. Share.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Awww cute

One of our Mille Fleur bantams--which are both roosters--has started crowing. It is the most adorable thing. I love the bantams. They are so birdy. They rule the chicken yard. I'll try to get a decent pic of the Yellow Japanese bantam so you can see how spectacular he is.

Note the use of the word "he." Lots of male banties. But overall we have about a three-to-one ratio of hens to roosters (unlike in the duck pen, where I am pretty sure it's four-to-one in favor of drakes!). So fellow poultry raisers: When do the hens start laying their first teeny little eggs?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

How could I have been so foolish?

Who knew--I could have ended the drought at any time! But somehow, I had forgotten the simple fact that whenever I go into Athens for any kind of activity that requires me to drive home after dark, something dire happens to the weather and I end up creeping home at 35 mph in gusting winds, impenetrable fog, fearsome lightning, and pouring rain.

I would describe my wonderful Friday evening to you, but it turns out my friend J has already done an excellent job.

Friday, June 23, 2006

You have got to be kidding me


Thumbs up

It's still early in the season, but I'm going to go ahead and give the Jamie stamp of approval to the Sungold tomatoes. I hadn't tried this breed before, but I can tell you now, straight up, that the seed companies aren't kidding about its prolificness or its tangy-sweet taste.

That's one of my Stavros pepperoncini on top. I think I'm going to like them a lot, too, although no pepper ever seems to be as wildly generous as the good ol' jalapeƱo (which I am just about ready to start pickling!).

For what it's worth, the Ichiban eggplants are coming fast and thick, too. No sign of the Rosa Biancas yet; they must take longer to get going.

Hmm. I see some panzanella in my future. And some pico de gallo.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Let the water wars begin.

At least two counties in the Atlanta metro area are operating under a total watering ban right now. The entire state has been under watering restrictions for two years.

Rain, please!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Hapless rookie farmer day

I'm back, and for all intents and purposes I am well again, but two events that occurred today make me wonder if I am running on full mental capacity:

(1) I managed to lock myself in the henhouse. Don't ask me how I did it; the henhouse only locks from the outside. All I know is, I went to open the door to leave and the latch was stuck in the half-closed position. The s.o. came to rescue me, but only after I yelled his name about 10 times. "I heard you the first time," he said, "but I was in the middle of cleaning a paintbrush, and you didn't sound like you were really in trouble." Gah!

(2) While I was putting the ducks up for the night, Gracie (who had been tied up outside while we were doing outdoor chores) escaped, trailing a purportedly unbreakable steel cable behind her. She started dancing around the outside of the duck pen, trying to get in on the action. Horrified, I leapt out of the pen--leaving the gate open behind me--and with my bare hand grabbed the steel cable, which of course gave me the mother of all ropeburns. The only saving grace was that the ducks, perhaps because there was a crazy-ass dog outside their pen, stayed put.


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Turkey takeover

Because we are very popular, and because we like to Do Things, we turkeys are watching this blog while the person who feeds us lies on the couch coughing and complaining. We would be glad to field any questions you might have, as long as they do not involve Thanksgiving recipes. And if anyone can tell what breeds of turkeys we might be, we'd love to know.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Ducks amuck

Today our ten ducks got their first taste of the outdoors. After a few moments of terror, in which one agoraphobic Rouen duck actually wedged its entire body into one of the holes in a cement block and had to be manually extracted--yes, really--they started to enjoy the weeds, the bugs, and the fresh air. There are no fancy accommodations for them yet; we are hoping that our current kennel-inside-a-fence setup works until we can do better, and that no ducks are harmed. But we needed them out NOW.

The turkeys are not sure what to think of life without their large, mess-making friends. They stood in the same place for at least an hour, unmoving, after I removed the ducks. But I think I managed to get them un-weirded-out and eating and drinking again. I like turkeys because they are quiet, timid, thoughtful creatures. But sometimes it can be frustrating when they are not brave enough to do even the most elementary activity. Some call it stupidity, but I would suggest that their nature has served them rather well over time.

All this was accomplished with more than the usual difficulty, because the s.o. and I are both sick as dogs. I have a cold of some sort, a post-Twangfest malaise that I don't think I could reasonably have expected to avoid, seeing as I am not exposed to very many exotic germs in my daily life. The s.o. has something which for all intents and purposes is dysentery, but is probably the flu. We are quite a pair. Most of our communications today have taken the form of groans.

In my current condition, I tried to respond to the comments on the previous post three separate times, but each time it was too challenging and I closed the comments box again. Sorry about that. I'll do better later. Now the Nyquil is calling me. I will be right as rain soon.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

In which Jamie leaves the farm, and then returns

I'm baaaaack!

This photo was taken by my friend Maggie from Iowa. I like it because it looks as though I'm doing t'ai chi. In reality, I'm taking a photo of the band Grand Champeen while trying to shade my eyes with my free hand. Grand Champeen were pretty much the heroes of Twangfest X: Not only did they play a daytime outdoor set chock-full of their own catchy songs, but they also played covers until 5 AM at our end-of-festival afterparty.

I would also recommend that you make every effort to see the Dirtbombs. Imagine, if you will, a loud and bombastic punk-soul band with two drummers, two bass players, and a lead singer scratching (yes, as in hip-hop DJ scratching) on his guitar. I believe one of my friends referred to them as "godless killing machines." I may have temporarily set aside my no-dancing policy.

So while I was gone, a lot of things happened. Apparently it was 98 degrees--the poor s.o., left with double chores in that heat! Well, he managed to take care of everything admirably. The poultry are huge, the garden is junglelike, and the bees are as mean as ever and are producing mountains of brood and honey.

Today I have already eaten two Sungold tomatoes right off the vine. Some of the Tigerella tomatoes are also producing. There are two large basketfuls of cucumbers waiting to be pickled. I have harvested three zucchini and a scallop squash. The eggplants have started to set fruit, and the corn is earing up.

Before I left, I had just barely managed to wean myself off of coffee. I am now right back where I started. *sigh*

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

My new favorite place

The chicken house is still under construction--there are plans to add siding, for example, and the s.o. still wants to build a storage cabinet inside, above the roost--but for all intents and purposes, it is done. It is like Fort Knox. If any animal large enough to harm a chicken can get into that house, I will be duly impressed. Even the floor is lined underneath with hardware cloth.

So having gotten to this point, yesterday we decided it was time to repatriate the chickens. They are getting too large and (it pains me to say it, because I adore them) too smelly to live in our attic any longer.*

The only problem was how to move 27 chickens, ranging in size from dove to parrot, from our attic to a building in the back yard. Our initial thought was to somehow get them all into a dog kennel and carry it down the stairs. But what turned out to be much easier was to grab two birds at a time, put them in a small box, and carry them that way. It meant 14 trips up and down the attic stairs, which my calves are definitely complaining about today, but it was as un-traumatic for both birds and people as possible.

The first bird to arrive was none too happy about it, but as more and more of his flockmates showed up, he and the others quickly took a liking to their new home. Sure, they're currently too small to make much use of the nesting boxes and the roost, but they'll get there quickly. In the meantime, they adore the nooks and crannies under the boxes, and they are doing lots of Chicken Things, e.g., scratching, sunbathing, and playing keep-away with pieces of purple sprouting broccoli.

It was chilly last night, so we ran an extension cord out to the chicken house and turned on a brooder lamp. They were grateful for it. Other than that, there has been no "learning curve"; they are acting as they always have, only with more gusto.

The best part for me is that I don't have to lift up chicken wire and step into a big box to visit them. I can just walk in the door--after checking to make sure no one has any ideas about escaping, of course!

I will be leaving for St. Louis this evening to attend Twangfest 10. I'll be gone until next Monday, and my internet access may be touch and go, so I'm not promising much until then. But when I return, I promise you will be able to watch as we complete the outdoor chicken run and give the chicks their first taste of the wide world.

* For these very reasons, I am dying to repatriate the ducklings, too, but they are still too young. I had been duly informed by Liz and Maggie that ducks were incredibly messy animals, but I had no idea they grew so quickly. Yikes! What a sloppy ick we have going on up there! The turkeys, meanwhile, are welcome to stay a while, being their somber, contemplative turkey selves.

Monday, June 05, 2006


By the way, please go over to the Eat Local Challenge blog and find out about my incredible weekend!

If a tree falls in the woods...

I was just standing in the garden*, planting three Brandywine tomato plants that I bought at the flea market yesterday (not that I need more tomatoes, since I already have 34 in the ground! I must have sucker painted across my forehead), and I heard an enormous crack, almost like a lightning strike.

I looked back into the woods, where the noise came from, and saw a giant branch split away from an ancient tree and fall, smashing everything beneath it into splinters. I just stood there and stared for a while. I know that sort of thing happens all the time, but how often are you lucky enough to witness it?

* While half of it was being watered...gloat gloat gloat gloat

Friday, June 02, 2006

A good day

Yesterday could have started out very badly. Earlier this week, I found out that my hairstylist had quit the business. I was put in the horrific, hated position of having to choose a new one from scratch--one who would, hopefully, not slaughter my hair.

After some pondering, I made an appointment with the owner of this salon, which is kittycorner from the bar where I used to work. (It is also directly across the street from a "gentlemen's club," but that's not relevant here.) The appointment was yesterday morning. As it turned out, she did a wonderful job--my style is mostly the same, but somehow more modern--and the s.o. complimented me on my sleek hair several times throughout the day. Sweet!

The day had gotten off to a good start, and it continued that way. A couple of days ago, I had written this:

It's dry as a bone out there, so once again we had to water the garden. I want to automate the watering process somehow. I have never been satisfied with the water distribution I get from soaker hoses, and I need something more movable and adjustable than a drip irrigation system, so I am considering hooking up a battery of sprinklers to a timer so that at 5:00 AM...fsssssshhhhhhhh! They kick on. Anything has to be more efficient than me standing out there in the heat with a hose.

Well, initially I bought four little sprinklers with adjustable spray patterns and hooked them up to a forked network of hoses. The result was pathetic, pitiful, comical. With the water pressure divided up like that, the cheap sprinklers couldn't project water more than, say, three feet.

So yesterday I exchanged the four little sprinklers for two very powerful oscillating ones. I brought them home, cut off the water supply to half the garden, and hooked them up to the hoses in the other half. VICTORY! It is a thing of beauty. I can't put the system on a timer in my hoped-for hotel lawn style, because I have to manually move the sprinklers from one set of hoses to the other midway through the process. But the coverage is thorough and gentle, like a soft rain, and I can simultaneously work in whichever half isn't being watered. My life has suddenly gotten much easier and more productive. Already I've gotten around to clearing some beds that have needed it for a week or more.

We celebrated by eating the tenderloin of our half pig, with a side of homegrown kohlrabi. I found the world's easiest, best recipe for the pork in an old New Orleans restaurant cookbook: You brush the tenderloin thickly with honey and sprinkle it with an equal mixture of sea salt, coarse pepper, and crushed brown mustard seeds. Then you sear it for four minutes per side (for medium to medium-rare) in a hot cast iron skillet. It makes kind of a sticky, charred mess in the pan, but it is heavenly.