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Homestead Heartbreak

ETA: Just after posting this, while cleaning the kitchen, I watched this video.  Yes, yes, yes. It spoke to a lot of what I feel and have experienced.

In a comment to asakiyume  in one of my posts, I had said I might expand on what has been going on with my flock, but up until now, I haven't really had the heart to do it.

This winter, one of my hens, Winona, started acting a bit scared/depressed. She stayed inside the coop, barely venturing out, and as a result, lost quite a bit of weight. I thought most of it was caused by the fact that we had two roosters who were constantly fighting over the hens, often dismounting them roughly when chased off by the other male. I figured Winona didn't want to have any part of it and didn't worry too much at that point.

I finally separated the flock into two when we got the infrastructure into place, but one of the roosters got really agressive with the hens. They were so scared they wouldn't come out to eat or drink (moveable coop without the necessary room to put in victuals). So, we harvested the rooster and replaced him with Lucky Fluffypants.  Then one day, one of my hens died in my arms (from the other flock). I thought she was egg-bound, but we didn't find anything to suggest that when we cut her open. She was FAT, though. She was a meat bird that I had decided to breed (as was the mean rooster). However, we also found (post-boiling for the cats) a tumor between her breast and her thigh.

Exactly one week later, I had another hen acting like the first (purplish comb, sleeping in the nesting box, a general air of straining), so I called the vet and made an appointment for the afternoon. When we went to catch her to take her to the vet, she died in my arms, too. Ruptured vessel. I decided to go through with the autopsy, and we found her intestines completely covered in lesions and her cavity bursting with fluid. The vet had never seen the like, and the lab said the tissue was too old when they got it to be sure of a diagnosis. They suspected Marek's disease, however. I wasn't sure because my animals hadn't exhibited any of the more classic symptoms.

Then we had another hen (one of those meat birds) start eating our eggs, despite having calcium available. Considering her a ticking time bomb, we harvested her, too, and despite being really fat like the other and having a yellowish liver, she seemed OK.  Having three less hens meant the others were being sorely used by the roosters, so we bought in three cou-nu hens who were ready to lay  (naked necks; yes, they are very ugly).

However, Winona kept getting weaker and weaker, so I took her to the vet. He suggested a fecal analysis to look for parasites. Found out we had a very serious infestation of roundworms, invisible to the naked eye. I started treating the flocks, moved them to new pens, scoured out the old coops (with help from a friend), but two days before the treatment ended, Winona died. This time, I did notice her irises had begun to change color, and she was paralyzed when I found her early in the morning.  I thought she was dead and prepared to bury her, not wanting to go through the labs, etc. again since I was sure of myself, but then I moved her leg and saw that she was still alive.

I was all alone and knew that I could sit with her until she died or put her out of her misery myself. I opted to kill her humanely, but by time I had sharpened the knife, she had died.

So now we have a disease on our farm that is basically impossible to get rid of. It can be vaccinated against, with no guarantee that our birds will not get one of the three strains of it--and the strains are mutating in response to the vaccinations, of course. We can stop raising chickens. Or we can try to breed resistant stock. I just had a hen hatch five chicks. The problem? The dad is the son of the one who died from a confirmed Marek's disease victim.  Logic and protocol say not to breed animals that have shown a susceptibility to the disease. And Lucky's dad was Lila, the one who was so sickly last year. Lila survived, however, when no one thought he would. And this time around, with Lucky, we had the best hatch rate ever. We would have had 7 out of 9 if not for my own carelessness, which really hurts.

The conundrum, the conundrum.  

And to complete my heartbreak, I effectively killed 15 ducklings in the egg by moving the mother duck off her nest to relocate her and her clutch to the new pen we built for our ducks. It was stupid and ill-planned on my part. I didn't want to leave her confined as she was in the dark, with no access to fresh air, greenery, etc., but I should have tried moving her under different conditions. "Live and learn," is all well and good, but when it becomes, "Kill and learn," it is devastating. As our neighbor says, When you work with life, you work with death. But the pointlessness of this loss guts me. I won't allow the duck to sit another clutch this year because we don't want to feed birds through the winter or have to harvest them then, either. :( So there goes a lot of the meat production we were counting on.

Anyhow, this is a large part of why I have been absent of late. That and the garden, of course.

What have you been up to?
Oh. My. Goodness. I am so glad I have a couple of bags of green tomatoes in the freezer, and at the end of this coming growing season, I will be thrilled to have all those green fruits that never ripen.

I found this recipe on Serious Eats to use with green tomatoes and made it for lunch. The pot was licked clean afterwards (partly because I didn't pay attention to the servings but mostly because it was so delicious). I had to threaten Farmer Boy with never eating another thing for the rest of his life to make him taste it, but once he did, he declared he loved it and begged for more. We really enjoy Indian food and miss both our Indian friends in Egypt and having Indian restaurants who would deliver to our home in Maadi. I love to cook Indian food myself, but often I feel like the recipes turn out "Indian-inspired" more than the taste I associate with "the real thing." This recipe, however, tasted totally authentic to this wayfaringwordhack, who, thanks to getting pregnant at just the right moment, had to cancel the leg of her round-the-world trip that would have taken her to India and has, therefore, never set foot in that enticingly beautiful and incredibly diverse country.

I followed the recipe from Serious Eats very closely, but I will put it here with the changes I made.

Green Tomato Curry with Potatoes and Garlic from Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries

Ingredients for 2 people :
2 tablespoons oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 small potatoes, unpeeled because that's how we roll in this house, and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
320 grams (8 oz ) green tomatoes sliced into 1-inch segments
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric (I accidentally put in closer to 2 tsp)
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped (I forgot this, but it would have been even more divine with it, I'm sure)

Directions

1. Pour oil into a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until it is reddish brown, about a minute or so. Stir often. Make sure it doesn't burn. If it does, start over.
2. Add the potatoes, tomatoes, garam masala, salt and turmeric. Turn heat down to medium. Stir occasionally, and cook for about 10 minutes.
3. Pour in a cup of water (I used homemade soup stock). Scrape the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge any browned bits. When the mixture comes to a boil, cover the skillet, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes and tomatoes are tender. Stir every few minutes or so.
4. You want the final sauce to be kind of thick, so mash up a few of the potatoes and tomatoes with the wooden spoon. Turn off the heat, stir in the cilantro, and serve.

Bon appétit (or "bhojan kaa aanand lijiye" as Google tells me is the translation to Hindi)

Grace, remember

In this entry, I posted that I would like to try to at least look at my manuscript every day, whether or not I work on it; just look and progress would more likely be made than not. I am here to report that I have not looked at the MS every day. However, I have edited 82 of 132 pages, so I feel gracious enough towards myself considering all the the other stuff I have had on my plate like preparing a big birthday party and getting seedlings started for the new growing year, amongst other things.

The manuscript that I have edited is not the one I referenced in the other post, though. I still have to sit down with that other project and figure out a timeline for finishing illustrations and such.We are supposed to have a dedicated craft room in this house, but right now most of that is taken up with a seedling propagator. With a fairly short growing season and now being in possession of a grow tunnel, I need to get on the ball with as many plants as I can for longer harvests.

And as for that garden layout overhaul? Still all in my head. I did run the chickens through part of the existing patch on bug and plant patrol, but as for the actual marking out of beds? Nope.

It will happen. It will happen. In the meantime, breathe deeply and give grace.

________

Oh, and the ducklings I mentioned yesterday? Hatched. Haven't seen if all 12 eggs made it, but they are so darling and so YELLOW!

The Day of the Sons

 Not my sons, mind you. My poultry dads' sons.

As you might (or probably don't) remember, we had some trouble with our first rooster, Rico. His aggressive nature earned him a one-way ticket to the soup pot, but not before he sired a son, our first chick to hatch here on our little farm. "Miracle" we named him because the brood hen abandoned the nest just before he hatched and I found his cold, stiff body in a corner of the box. Lots of prayers and warm breath over his little body in my cupped hands were rewarded by a tiny cheep, so I quickly restored him to his now-attentive mother. Against all odds, Miracle made it and is now our alpha rooster.


His mother is the barred hen (Coucou de Malines Tete de Dindon) on the right, and so far, he is not aggressive like his sire.
Our second rooster, Lila, also met his end as a coq-au-vin because of a nasty temperment and some doubts as to his desirability as a flock sire. Like Rico, he fathered a son that we ended up keeping anyhow, another chick with a miraculous birth story. Storm, the barred hen above, was the broody hen this time around, and she crushed the egg before the chick finished hatching. I brought it inside and spent hours moistening the shell and membrane so that the chick could hatch. His name is Lucky Fluffypants, and he is twice lucky because because the other chick that hatched with him was killed by a hawk. Here he is now, a fierce-look but so far not a fierce character. We'll see. His half sister is the red hen on the right in the picture above, and so far she is a great layer.
`

Here he is with his mother, a Wyandotte.

We have a new drake, Ghengis II, because his father developed a limp that lasted months. I decided to keep this one instead and hope I made a good choice. His mom is sitting on her first clutch of the year, and we should have ducklings tomorrow.

My first Egyptian boy

Farmer Boy turned 5 one week ago. We had a pirate party, as per his request,. Twenty-two of us celebrated him with fine piratical fare and a treasure hunt. It was lovely to see him enjoying himself with the new friends we've made of late (families who are doing some form of alternative education like we are). It makes up for his first words to me when he woke up on his birthday last year, which were, "Are my friends downstairs waiting to celebrate with me?"

He is bright and fun, and just as loving, bighearted, and generous as he has always been. What a blessed woman I am.

Here I am

I felt prompted to check my friends feed after weeks and weeks of absence due to all the busyness that is life, and I have caught up with you all as far as DW will let me without clicking on the feed of each individual friend. As broad as it may be, I want to wish all of you fulfillment and peace, journeys and discoveries, hope and love in 2019.

As the result of my conditioning, with the turn of the year, I am looking back--myopically and selectively, I admit--on the last year and peering into the new with hopeful thoughts of Different and Better.

My major failed goal of last year was not sending out my children's book by March end, much less finishing it.  I would like to rectify that this year. I have no set date this time. I need to sit down with the project and make specific goals to achieve by specific dates. I like asakiyume's idea in this post about at least opening the document every day.

I was overwhelmed and consumed with my gardening this past year, and while I feel I did a lot, I did not succeed a lot. That sucks, to spend so much time and to have so little to show for it in this lean season. Even throughout the chief growing season, I do not feel we had abundance.* My goal this year is to be smarter about what I grow based on what performed well and what we eat the most of. Logical, I know, but it is a both a difficult thing to predict based on the weather and my own lack of experience. We have the grow tunnel in place this year, so that should help, but I am also planning a major layout overhaul of the existing veggie patch and feeling a panicky about it already because, as usual, I feel I don't know enough (perfectionist me abhors not getting things "right," don't you know), and true to form, I did not do the preliminary work in the autumn when it was time to get the ball rolling to prepare this year's beds.

However, my word for this year is not "Stress-Free" (two words?), but I am going to try to give myself grace. I want to learn and do; do and learn. Fail and forgive; forget and assimilate.

To use the Google Dictionary: Grace: courteous goodwill. and Merriam-Webster: : disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.

Yeah, Grace. That is my word for this year.

Have you set goals or do you choose a word to define and focus your coming year?

_________

*We had lots of tomatoes, lots and lots, but even zucchini, which everyone talks about having soooooooo much of, did not give that well with the drought.

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Recipe: Apple Crisp

I have made this recipe a few times now, and I thought I would share it in case anyone else has some apples they need to use up (I have a couple of crates!). And posting it allows me to keep a handy record of the changes I have made. One of these days, I'll transfer all my notecard-recorded recipes into a notebook, but until I do, this is a nice way to organize them.

Let me know if you make the crisp and what you think. Bon appétit !

This is adapted from "Potluck Apple Crisp" on tasteofhome.com

Ingredients

Apple filling:


  • 12 medium apples, sliced & peeled 1

  • 1 cup sugar (200 g)2

  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Crust and Topping:


  • 1/2 cup shortening (95g)

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (113g)

  • 1 cup packed brown sugar (I use 200g raw sugar with 1T molasses)

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (210g)

  • 1-1/2 cups old-fashioned oats (150g)

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C) In a Dutch oven or heavy pot, combine apples, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg; cook and stir over medium heat just until apples are tender. Cover the pot if the apples are drying out too much.

Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the shortening, butter and brown sugar. Combine the flour, oats, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture and mix well. Pat half of flour mixture into a greased 13x9-in. baking dish and bake for 10-15 minutes, long enough for the crust to start to set.3

Remove from oven and spread apples over top while still hot. Crumble remaining flour mixture over apples. Bake at 400°F (205°C) for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream if desired.

Notes:

1. I use an apple peeler that cores and slices the apples at the same time. I then break these slices into quarters. I also use about four kinds of apples for different flavor notes. If you buy organic apples, save your peels and cores to make Apple Scrap Jam. So easy and delicious.
2. Two cups of sugar is called for in the original recipe calls, which is just way too much for my taste. Depending on your preferences and apples, I would err on the side of less sugar and work your way up. I put only 1/3 cup the 2nd time I made it and found it fine.
3. The original recipe calls for adding the apples over an unbaked crust, which I did the first time. However, the bottom crust was lost in a total mush with the apple filling and was a bit gritty in the mouth. I much prefer to pre-bake the bottom first. Your tastebuds may disagree. 3)

Inktober 2018 wrap-up

Nothing like an entry that comes almost a month late.

I finally finished fiddling with my Inktober sketch about a week ago but forgot to post last week.  Here is a comparison with the post-wash piece and the final version where I added the shadows.



20181112_065525_resized.jpg

The use of my camera flash on one version explains the color difference. Alas, there is still no nice photo in sight.

My take away from Inktober is that first and foremost, I absolutely loved doing the challenge. I like that I had decided from the outset what I would do and how I would do it. The not having to search for inspiration or my materials each day was such a pleasant way to work. No hassle and no stress suits me very well. Also, I had the THING to stick to, the personal commitment to a challenge, and that saw me through on this piece, even when Inktober ended. Once I finished the piece, though, I put all art aside.* Hosting Thanksgiving dinner for my neighbors mostly explains this complete standstill.

The just drawing-what-I-want-how-I-want had the downside of resulting in a sketch that lacks the coherence and believable depth it could have had. Without thinking more about composition beforehand, I sketched myself into several corners. I am not disappointed with what I accomplished, but it did serve to show me how important some forethought is. While I enjoyed sketching the way I did, I feel a bit paralyzed about starting pieces where I DO need to think things through. It just feels so tedious. Necessary, but tedious.

Still, I need to step up to the plate and make it happen. My only other choice is to turn in my children's nonfic manuscript and let the publisher find an illustrator. I really want to ty to illustrate it myself before going that route, though.

While I was not at all thinking about my natural (comfortable) style while doing this piece vs a style that would be compatible with the kids' book, I do have the uncomfortable feeling that a more cartoony style is not in me.

And that is enough rambling for now.

_____________________
* I did spend almost an entire day yesterday trying to figure out a page layout in my MS that is giving me fits, so I have begun to work again. I just need to turn finishing this beast into a challenge of sorts, frex: figuring out how many illustrations I have to do and assigning a certain amount of time to each.

Do any of you have a way of setting targets for yourself that are both fun and efficacious?

Snippet Day

I meant to post this earlier but life has been tumultuous the past week and a half. I still have yet to finish this Inktober piece or sum up my thoughts on my month, but I did apply an ink wash after much hemming and hawing over whether or not I should do it. I decided that I have no experience in this and never will have if I don't take risks. So after trying to get a good photo for future reference's sake should I totally ruin the sketch with a wash, I went ahead and laid down some ink.



The wash totally changed the look of the piece and created new challenges and needs in terms of shading and darkening the values elsewhere in the piece. That is what I will be working on little by little.

Execution aside, do you prefer it with or without the dark background?

Homegrown

Take a look and tell me what you see:



Need a closer look?


What do you suppose this is?

This, my friends, is the makings of kimchi, all homegrown, even the ginger there in the front that looks like a dirty stone.

Deliciousness will ensue.

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