No? You're not alone! :)
I'm sorry for my absence on this blog. I don't like to go long periods without writing, and every time I update recently I remind myself how this isn't hard or all that time-consuming in retrospect. And truly, I do enjoy it. I really have no excuse.
Since my last update it has been cooking and beach trips and chickens - oh my! Brace yourselves. :)
The beach was just what we needed after long hours in the garden all Spring. I love that we live in Indiana, yet still just around 2 hours north of us lies this vista. Lake Michigan looks more like an inland sea, and even though the water was still quite chilly this time of year, my intrepid children did not seem to mind the numbness in their extremities, opting as they did to play as much as they could, then roll in the hot sand to warm-up. :)
That same weekend before we left, we went to a free-range chicken farm and picked out two new hens, who we have named Mabel and Beatrice. They are Rhode Island Reds and are gentle, good spirited girls. They're 4 months old, which is 2 months older than our chicks, so theoretically any time they could give me an egg. It's more likely they'll start laying at 5 or 6 months, but hey... it's good to be prepared.
Brian built an enclosure in the barn for them and their coop. You can see Mabel and Beatrice's nesting boxes in the background, and those are plastic eggs not real ones. :) They're meant to entice them to the nest when the time is right.
We felt our chicks were all tucked away safe and sound in the coop. They are 7 weeks, going on 8 now, so we let them out to roam the yard one day while we were all home. They had a wonderful day, but since we're so near a woods we made sure they were all put back to bed by night.
The next morning, Brian was up planting some basil seedlings we'd started from seed in pots, and I did my usual morning check on the chicks. I opened the barn door, and only saw three: Wiley, Braveheart, and a yet then unnamed black and white, plus Mabel and Beatrice. I counted. I scrambled over the enclosure wall and looked furiously around they're favorite hiding spots. Nothing. I ran outside and screamed to Brian that I was missing 5 chicks. He ran over, began inspecting the outside, and found 2 patches of white fur snagged on the top coop wall, a black and white feather near the barn roof, and blood lining the inside top coop enclosure. I cried.
We think a opossum took notice of our little flock after their day's romp in the yard, and very craftily figured out how to get through our "security system." He must have jumped onto the barn roof from something else, climbed down onto the coop roof, and managed to bend the wire down in a weak point, sneaking through and poaching 5 beautiful baby chicks, 4 of my brown hens and 1 black and white. Gone. Just like that.
I went back inside and stared at the cruel irony of my two named chicks surviving, and with such appropriate names as Wiley (as in Wile E. Coyote) and Braveheart. I named the surviving black and white one right then and there: Lucky.
Brian stayed home from work all that morning turning the coop into Fort Knox. It's worked, and all of our chickens are safe and sound, and slowly recovering from what must have been very scary. We will have to replace the loss here in a week or two, but for now, we're just letting things lie.
Death is always near us, so while I can be sad about it I haven't let it consume my days. The kids and I have been very busy gardening, biking, hiking, and picking berries! Berry season came very early this year and is very short. Last week was strawberries, this week the blueberries are ready.
We picked 10 pounds and made this jam from Food in Jars that I adore. It took about an hour and a half of excited picking and eating, plus a strawberry lollipop for the ride home, which you can see stuck to both my kids' legs as they sleep off a strawberry hangover. :) I have 10 half pints of jam, but could have easily netted 12 had I had the jars on hand. I just put the remainder in the fridge for immediate consumption. Darn. :)
The garden is producing now, which is just wonderful. It doesn't look like much in the photo, but that's because it's hard to see. There's a giant zucchini blossoming, enormous heads of Chinese cabbage and romaine lettuce, peas climbing happily and tomatoes beginning to topple over, corn sprouting, peppers giving me hot wax peppers (5 this week!), radishes, and so much more.
In the other section, I have potato plants as tall as Liam, an abundance of fresh herbs, which I'm making good use of (there will be coming recipes on this topic soon), and two young blueberry bushes that will probably give me at least a pound between them. Yay!
Onto food finally. Lately I've been frustrated at what my kids' are eating, or rather NOT eating. It seems like they go through this phase every few months and I have to reign them in and away from peanut butter and jelly as their primary source of sustenance. So, I'm getting a little crafty again on the kid food front, and so far so good. Here's one of their new favorites.
Hummus, adapted from this recipe
Yield: a good 2 to 3 cups
2 1/2 cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 C tahini
1/3 C warm water
1/2 C olive oil
1/3 C lemon juice
1 t garlic powder
1 to 1 1/2 t sea salt
2 t ground cumin
1/4 t smoked paprika
In a food processor, combine everything but the olive oil and process into a smooth paste. Drizzle in the olive oil until it reaches a good consistency. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to 2 weeks after making. I always serve my hummus by centering it in a bowl, then drizzling a ring of olive oil around it (like a bullseye), adding more lemon juice and sprinkling more smoked paprika.
Tzatziki Sauce, adapted from this recipe
Yield: about 3 C
3 C plain greek yogurt
1/4 C lemon juice
1/4 t garlic powder
1 large seedless cucumber, peeled and diced
about 1 T sea salt
2 T finely chopped fresh dill
extra sea salt and pepper to taste
Start by peeling the cucumber and dicing it. Set it in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle the 1 T salt over top. Let stand at least an hour, to draw the water out of the cucumber. Drain the colander well and then let them set on a tea towel to dry out a little, or dry them off individually - your choice.
Once they are a dry, place the cucumber pieces with the dill, garlic powder, salt and pepper into a food processor and pulse until you have fine pieces of cucumber. Pour this into the yogurt and stir in the lemon juice until well combined. Best if made a few hours ahead of time to give the flavors time to come together.