Thursday, May 31, 2012

Planting the garden

The greatest danger of frost has passed (knock on wood!), the soil is tilled and the rows carefully dug to accommodate watering... It is time to plant the garden!

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We planted all the staples: corn, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, squashes and so forth. I transplanted all my little seedlings from the sunroom and the egg carton system worked great! Frequent waterings had weakened the cardboard and all the little roots were growing right through. No need to tease the seedlings from their little cups, I just tore off individual cells and plunked them into the dirt, making sure they had good contact with the garden soil. With such little disturbance to the roots I noticed these transplants didn't seem to wilt nearly as bad as with other systems I've used. I'm sold on the egg carton system and will continue using it through the summer for replacement starts and in years to come.

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I can't wait for that first big garden salad!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

All curled up

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Went to tip over an old composting straw bale in the garden expecting a big nest of baby mice or pocket gophers and found this guy curled up inside. Organic pest control at it's finest!

For the record this is a non-poisonous bull snake, not a rattler.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The perving bird

We have a skylight in our bathroom and for the last two weeks when I go in to take a pee this blackbird flies over to the skylight and peers down to watch me. It is a little unnerving. I thought it was a fluke at first but it is a pretty regular thing now. Nathan didn't believe me but came sprinting out of the bathroom excitedly exclaiming the he too had seen the perving bird! So far bird is too elusive for photos but I will keep you all posted on this incredibly important event.

Restringing the clothesline!

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After this debacle, we finally got around to giving our poor little clothesline some TLC. Nathan fixed the droopy arm and we replaced the broken, over-stretched clothesline. The ole gal is now back in service and ready for oodles of laundry this summer.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Ranch recipes: Chutney roast

I love this recipe. It is so simple and easy and delicious. There's no complicated ingredients, no browning or searing, no turning some super hot roast without splashing yourself, it can marinade in the fridge a few days if you don't get to it right away, heck if you have good coordination, you don't even have to touch raw meat. And it is always a welcome change from the plain ole pot roast with potatoes and carrots. Normally I am not a huge chutney person - it is too acidic and has to have the perfect application to really shine - but this is the perfect recipe for it.

This is however, not the most photogenic recipe and by the time it comes out of the oven after taunting me with smells for hours on end, I'm not in the mood for food styling. So please enjoy my photo of a brown roast in a browned pan with brown juice. I know it doesn't look very good but trust me, it is so worth it!

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Chutney Roast

Ingredients
- one 2.5 to 3 lb roast (I used a beef chuck roast here but any type of roast would be good. I've yet to try it with a pork roast but I am sure it would be divine!)
- one pint (about 2 cups or 16 oz) of thick chutney (I used home-canned "harvest chutney". I don't even remember what went into the jar at the time, mostly just garden leftovers. I do recall some peaches in there and I could identify some raisins)
- 1-2 cups water, as needed

Steps
1. The afternoon or evening before cooking, take frozen roast from freezer. Remove wrapping and place roast in a large zipper bag ( I used a 2 gallon size but 1 gallon should work). Pour chutney over roast. Close bag and make sure roast is covered with the chutney. Put in refrigerator to defrost completely.
2. The next day when roast is thawed, preheat oven to 275/300 degrees.
3. Dump roast and chutney sauce into heavy dutch oven pan (with lid). Cover pan leaving a slight gap for steam to escape.
4. Cook for 5-6 hours, adding water as needed to keep the sauce saucy and the roast moist. If the roast is starting to look a little dry in spots, spoon some of the sauce over it.
5. When the roast easily shreds with a fork, it is done.
6. Serve over mashed potatoes with a drizzle of the meat-infused chutney sauce (since this roast was grass-fed, there was not a big oil slick on the sauce. If using a grain-finished roast, just spoon off the top layer of oil first before serving up some sauce).
7. Enjoy!

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Happy cows out on pasture

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The herd enjoying a fresh green pasture. Living in the desert means this lush grass won't be around for long but the cows sure relish it before it is gone.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Just look at this marvellous moth!

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Isn't this a sight to behold? I've never seen these nocturnal moths before in my time here at the ranch but this is the third one I have seen this year. Lovely red wings, fuzzy feeler antenna and a fat little striped body. These moths are huge and very docile, which makes them excellent subjects for the camera.

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A type of silk moth, these lovely Cecropia moths are America's largest, native moth and are not commonly found on the west coast. What a treat to get to enjoy their presence!

Every day is a science lesson here at the ranch - full of wonderful things to explore. What else will we see?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Grilling Grass-fed Beef

Double F Ranch Meat CSA member Kathy was kind enough to share the following article from this week's Oregonian:


With Memorial Day officially marking the start of grilling season, now is a "grate" time to brush up your skills and grills. This article works to dispel the common warning that high heat (like on a grill) is bad for grass-fed beef. It is not so much that the heat itself is bad but that cooking in such a manner requires special attention to limit the loss of the precious meat juices.

By following the included tips for "Grilling the Grass-fed way" you are sure to enjoy a delicious, grass-fed steak (complete with grill marks!) hot off the grill.

CSA members - does reading the article inspire you to try any of the cuts listed as "new steaks, bistro steaks or novelties"? If so, let me know and I will gladly work with the butcher to request these less than traditional cuts for future deliveries.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The ranch from above

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Some of the fields in all their spring glory. The green parts on the left is where the CRP burned in the very early spring. The fire really did wonders for the grass. The dark box is one of the areas we will be replanting with a wildlife mix. The green on the right part of the shot is a portion of "The Flat" where we have assorted fields of wheat, barley and alfalfa among other things. The area in the foreground with all the sagebrush was at one point a horse paddock from back in the day when they used teams of horses in the early part of the 1900s.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Seedlings in the sunroom

It seems like just yesterday that Lauren and I were tucking tiny seeds into tiny pockets of dirt. Now these little seedlings are about ready to leave the nest and head out into the garden.

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The egg carton system worked wonderfully! I had to water every day because our sunroom gets so hot but it worked out well. It is easy to tell when the plants need water and how much by touching the carton to see how dry it is. I'd heard many recommendations to poke holes at the bottom of each cell to let extra water escape but I never did that and liked the results I ended up with. There was some slight issues with the cartons molding a little bit but I experienced no issues with dampening off (likely because they dried down each day so the roots did not stay wet).

Another thing I love about the egg carton system is that after several weeks of watering, the cardboard weakens a bit and the little roots just grow right through. I'm not planning on removing the plants from the carton at all, just tearing off individual cells and plunking them right into good contact with the dirt. I'll be certain to share my results.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ranch recipes: Dutch babies!

It's time for brunch!

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How I had never heard of this wonderful, eggy deliciousness before is beyond me but luckily some of our awesome friends shared the recipe when out for a visit recently (thanks Ian and Lauren, thanks Ian and Dara). A dutch baby is an egg-based dish that is similar to Yorkshire pudding, it puffs up real big like a souffle in the oven and looks pretty darn fancy. Since then it has been determined that Dutch babies or "German style" pancakes are the perfect ranch food for several reasons:

1) It uses a scalable amount of eggs - perfect for summertime at the ranch.
2) It uses a cast iron skillet - one of my favorite cooking utensils
3) It never sticks to the pan - cast iron is wonderful
4) It cooks up quickly - just 20 minutes or so in the oven and it is table-ready
5) Since the batter contains no sugar, I've yet to burn one up
6) The presentation when it comes out of the oven, all puffy and golden, is quite the sight to behold
7) Any type of topping is delicious

On to the recipe!

Blueberry Dutch Baby

Ingredients
- 3-6 eggs (I used six to make a thicker, dense pancake, but three would make a thinner, crispier treat)
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 cup of flour (I used AP here but will experiment with whole wheat soon)
- 2-3 T butter
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup blueberries (depending on how many you snack on first)

Steps
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the empty cast iron skillet in the oven to preheat (This dish can also be made in glass casseroles or even muffin tins if you don't have a skillet but perhaps don't leave these in the oven as long to preheat - just long enough to warm the dish and melt the butter).
2. Combine flour, milk and eggs. Whisk thoroughly to create a thin batter.
3. Remove skillet from oven and add butter to pan. Tilt the pan around as the butter melts to get a good coating on the sides.
4. Add batter to pan. Some of the butter will float to the top, that is fine.
5. Return pan to preheated oven for 3-5 minutes, just enough to set the edges of the Dutch baby but not enough to start to form a crust on top. Toss blueberries into batter.
6. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes until pancake is golden brown and puffy around the edges (the weight of the blueberries might limit puffing in the middle part).
7. Remove from oven and "Ooh" and "Aah" about how pretty and fancy it looks. Transfer to a platter and slice into wedges.
8. Serve warm with the traditional topping of a squeeze of lemon juice and a dusting of powdered sugar. Or top with a jam, jelly or syrup of your choice. Do note though that Dutch babies do not have as much flour in the batter as a traditional pancake to help soak up toppings, especially syrup. A little drizzle goes a long way.

Cheers!

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Little pigs!

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Joey and Kira came out for a visit recently and helped us pick up a load of wiggly pigglys. They were a little skeptical of people at first but tamed right down and are growing like crazy. In seems a little silly when they are this size to have them in such a huge pasture pen but they sure are happy little pigs.