Today’s Blooms

For the last three days in a row, temperatures rose above 80º F. Yesterday, if I stepped outside and blinked, there’d be another plant in bloom!

I have no idea what this is. It’s in my shade garden.

These crocus and scilla are in the front woodland.

There are pink buds and flowers on the ornamental cherry.

As pretty as this is, I’m worried. There’s going to be a snowstorm this week. I am 100% sure of my weather prediction because Steve is going to California for a conference today, and we always have dramatic weather when he’s gone. I’m not making this up. He leaves and there are blizzards and ice storms. One year it didn’t snow, but lightning did strike the house. The temperature is already 30º colder than it was yesterday. I think I’ll go pick some daffodils and put them in a vase in the kitchen. It’s always good to have a cheery spot when bad weather is expected.

Addendum: Here are more photos of the mystery bloom.

I checked the catalog of the nursery I purchased this plant from. Blanchette Gardens does not carry hyacinths!

BTW, note the ruler. It is one of my prized chicken collectibles. It reads “25,000 BUSY HENS TO SERVE YOU” and on the other side, “Willow Brook Poultry Farm – The Swords & Daughters.”

Eggs For Dinner

Some days I just don’t want to cook. Despite having worked as a sous chef and as a food writer, and having knife skills that make quick work of most recipes, there are days when I want someone else to do the food planning and prep, so that I can ignore the kitchen until I’m called in to eat. In this house, however, that doesn’t happen. I’m the only cook (although my son makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich.) If we lived in the city, I’d have take-out menus by the phone, but no one delivers to our little town. Not even pizza.

So, yesterday I proposed that we go out to dinner. The idea was greeted with looks of dismay. They’re spoiled. Why eat out when they have a professional private cook? Actually, I didn’t want to eat out either. I wanted a quick meal and then time before dark for another half-hour in the garden pruning the spirea.

So, reluctantly, at 5:30 I looked into the refrigerator. Not much there. No leftovers. But there were eggs (every one of the 12 Gems laid an egg yesterday!) I could have scrambled some up with smoked salmon, but I wanted a meal that looked more like dinner. I pulled Italian sausage out of the freezer and put it in a skillet to thaw and brown. (The sausage is amazing. I buy it at a farmer’s market from these very nice, conscientious farmers.) I poured some excellent marinara sauce into a small pot and set it to a low simmer. I carefully cracked in four eggs and set the browned sausage next to them. (That’s two eggs per person, my son wanted scrambled eggs.)

I covered the pot and let the eggs poach gently for fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, I toasted a few slices of bread.

To serve this meal, which I’ll call “Poached Eggs in Marinara with Sausage,” I set the toast on our plates, and then, using a slotted spoon, set two eggs on a slice of bread. Next I ladled some sauce on top, and dusted it all with Parmesan Reggiano. I cut the sausage into a few large pieces and placed them to the side. I filled out the meal with something light – romaine lettuce and cantaloupe.

Twenty-five minutes after looking in the refrigerator, we were on the screened porch, eating dinner. It was almost as if I hadn’t cooked at all. I only had to use a knife once, to cut the sausage. Steve actually did more work – he cleaned up the kitchen.

I think that the next time I don’t feel like cooking, I’ll do a version of this called “Eggs in Hell,” in which the eggs are poached in salsa and it’s served up on cornbread with beans on the side. But not tonight. Tonight we’re all going out for spicy Chinese food.

Unseasonable Heat and Animal Care

It’s March. I live in New England. Last year at this time there was a pile of snow at the end of the driveway. Today the temperature is going to rise past 80º F. As disconcerting as it is, I’m enjoying this unseasonably warm spring. This morning I walked out to the mailbox, barefoot. I’m wearing a t-shirt and capri pants. But, I worry about my animals.

The goats still have their winter coats on. They can handle very hot temperatures in the summer just fine (after all, this goat breed originated in Africa,) but they’re not designed to sit in the sun cloaked in layers of fur. I’ll be checking their water bucket a couple of times today to make sure it’s fresh and clean. A goat, even a thirsty one, will refuse water if it is even the littlest bit contaminated with a speck of dust. I’ll also go out and give the boys a good rub with the curry comb, too. This heat makes them so itchy!

Pip enjoys the morning sun, but later today you’ll be seeing him in the barn, where it’s shady and the concrete floor keeps things cool.

The Beast has emerged from her winter slumber. Koi can’t digest food when the water is cold, so in the spring Steve uses his digital thermometer to check the temperature. (If you’ve got the gadget, use it!)

It’s now safe to feed the fish. The Beast eagerly scarfed down her first meal of 2012. I don’t know if the heat will affect the toads that lay eggs in the shallow end. I hope it’s not too hot for them.

The hens have no difficulties coping with cold temperatures, but heat is another story. My barns are sited and designed to handle hot weather. They have excellent ventilation, cool concrete floors, and their backs are in the shade.It’ll be warm today, but not in the dangerous numbers, it won’t be humid, and the ground remains cool in the shade, so I’m not too concerned. However, if you have one of those small, prefab coops, with the wooden nesting boxes that jut out of the side, do keep an eye on your hens. A hen might sit in the box of upwards of a half hour before laying. A broody hen will stay in there all day. It can become deathly hot.

Topaz is thinking about going broody. She huffs up and stays put for an hour. Eventually, she lays an egg and leaves the nest. She’s got an Orpington’s thick coat of both downy and glossy feathers. Add to that the rise of her internal temp with broodiness, and she could have problems. I’ll be checking on her today.

Candy still has on her thick winter coat – she’s only just begun to shed – and rabbits die from heat stroke, so she’s the one that I’ll keep the closest eye on today. Steve has already taken down the wooden sides on the hutch that keep the snow out of her house in the winter. Now a cool breeze can blow through. We’ll be putting the shade tarp up soon. Meanwhile, she’s a smart old bunny, and knows to hunker down on the cool dirt in the shade.

The other animal to worry about is Scooter. He is a sun worshipper. He likes nothing better than sprawling out and baking every inch of his little body. He has no sense about it. When he starts to pant I shoo him inside.

The garden needs attention, too. Over the last two weeks, I planted cool-weather vegetables – parsley, greens, carrots and spinach. Unusually for this time of year, the bright sun has dried out the soil and I have to water. But, there’s still a danger of freezing and burst pipes, so I have a very, very long hose snaked out to the garden from the house.

It’s worth it, though, look a parsley sprout!

That’s not the only thing that’s green and growing. The peach tree is filled with buds.

Daffodils are blooming in the sheltered path along the stone wall.

But, beauty always comes with a price. The warm weather has spurred the first crop of pests. I’ve hung up the fly strips, which are a surprisingly effective, low-cost, low-tech, no-chemical control.

I’m ready for today’s sun and heat. A friend is coming for a visit this afternoon. I think we’ll have iced tea, while sitting with our bare feet in the pond.


Update: GoatCam is officially retired. If you want to see the goats (and who doesn’t) you can often see Pip and Caper frolicking on the main HenCam. Stay tuned for new cams coming soon!


This embedded stream is not working. You can click through and watch at YouTube. We are trying to get this fixed. Thanks for watching The HenCam!

Thirteen hens live here in the Big Barn. Eight of them are called The Gems because they are named after rocks. They arrived as chicks from a hatchery. For more about them, click on the Who’s Who page. Watch them outside on the main HenCam.

This cam has sound! Turn up the volume on the player to hear the hens.

The plastic tub is their dust bath. Read more about dust bathing in the FAQs and see the YouTube video.