The weather last week was terrible. It was hot. It rained on and off. There were long stretches of torrential downpours. When it wasn’t raining it was hot and the air was dense with 100% humidity. We humans were miserable. The rabbit stretched out on the concrete next to a frozen bottle of water. The hens stayed inside and complained. The goats refused to graze and asked for more hay. But, the Beast was in her element.
Fish must stay submerged in water, and so her world is constrained to under the surface of the pond.
The Beast and her minions (the goldfish) are voracious eaters. Algae is a favorite food. What with the humidity and heat, a sheet of algae bloomed last week on the rock. It is usually out of reach. But, with the rain coming down in warm sheets, there was little difference between the air and the pond. The Beast has good eyesight. She took a look.
Her world expanded.
As did her belly.
*New readers here might want to know that The Beast is a 10 year old koi. I bought her for $3.99 when she was barely 3-inches long. At the time she was white with a big black splotch on her head. She grew, the spot didn’t. She lives year-round in the pond, which is fitted with a pump, flowing water, and a cave so that she survives quite comfortably through the winter.
It’s blueberry season here. I have ten bushes, but haven’t been able to harvest more than a handful as the birds and the chipmunks get them. One of these years I’ll build covered fencing* around them, but for now I stock up on blueberries from farmstands and from carts at the side of the road. I wash the berries and spread them out on a large sheet pan, freeze individually, and then put them into zip freezer bags so that I have blueberries through the winter. Invariably those get used up before springtime and I end up buying frozen blueberries from the supermarket. They’re good, but not as good as local. Now that it’s blueberry season again, I want to use up what I have in the freezer, and that means making muffins.
I am very, very fussy about muffins. I like them light, both in texture and fat content. I want a berry muffin to be chockfull of berries, but not mushy. I want them to be normal portion size (I’d much rather eat two than down one huge muffin!) I want the recipe to be so easy that I can stir up a batch on the spur of the moment. Which is what I did yesterday afternoon.
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons honey
2 cups all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, don’t defrost)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 12 muffin cups or use paper liners.
2. Whisk together the egg, buttermilk, oil, vanilla and honey.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda until thoroughly mixed (nothing ruins a baked good more than a clump of baking soda!)
4. Using a spatula, combine the wet and the dry ingredients until all is moist. Lumps can remain.
5. Gently stir in the blueberries.
6. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups.
7. Bake for 22 to 30 minutes. If the berries were frozen, the muffins will take the longer time to bake through. They’re done when they spring back to the touch and there are no edges of raw dough around the berries.
*I’ve tried the netting that supposedly protects berry bushes. Both chipmunks and birds trapped and died in it. This year I tried the balloon that look like big scary eyes. The birds sat on them. Suggestions are welcome.
Buffy is seven years old. Chickens don’t usually live that long, not even doted on backyard birds. Certainly, Buffy is so long-lived thanks to a number of reasons. She’s had more than her share of ailments, but she has survived all of them, primarily, I think, because of her sturdy constitution. That, and I’ve been right there to treat her. It’s also possible that she has defied the odds because of her personality. Buffy is steady. Unflappable. I’m not one of those who believe that chickens are smart, not in the way that we humans gauge intelligence. But, those pea-sized brains do a remarkably fine job making sense of their surroundings and their animal community, and allowing them to live fully in their worlds.
I think that the wonderful thing about having a hen live well into old age is that you I can observe the years of accumulated knowledge. I saw this the other day. I let the Girls out into the goat pasture to forage in the weeds and compost pile. The youngsters spread out, gleeful with the wealth of things to investigate and eat.
Buffy has seen it all. She knows that it’s work to scratch up those bugs. It’s far easier to eat pellets from the dispenser. Besides, her legs are tired. Buffy knows a cool and comfortable place that she can hang out with her friends, and that’s right where she went.
While the pullets ran this way and that, Buffy settled down for a chat and then a nap with the boys.
Later, when it was time to go back into the chicken run, Buffy was waiting at the gate with the pullets. Yes, Buffy knows exactly what is going on and she knows exactly how to steadily and surely pace her days.
I’ve got a lot of interesting programs coming up. Some are open to the public, some are not. You can see all of the listings on my events page. On Wednesday I’ll be doing a program at a Girl Scout camp. I’m thinking about bringing Veronica. What a noisy hen – those of you who remember Marge will understand when I say that she is following right in that hen’s footsteps. (If you have an iPhone, you can hear Marge and get her ringtone here.)
There will be a Chicken Keeping Workshop in my backyard on Saturday. Three spots remain, so you can still come!
Saturday evening I’ll be doing a storytime for young children who wear cochlear implants. As many of you know, I am deaf, but because of technology and a very good surgeon, I function fully as a hearing person. I am so looking forward to reading Tillie Lays an Egg at this pajama-time event at the Northeast Cochlear Implant Convention.
On August 26, I’ll be doing a talk, quite far from home, in Kingston, Ontario. Details will be on my site soon.
I’ve just scheduled another workshop here at Little Pond Farm on Saturday, September 21. Sign up is now open. Do so soon, as this one is sure to sell out fast. It will be leaf peeper season here, and I know of several people planning on making the workshop part of a vacation to New England in the fall.
Keep an eye on the events page. More programs are in the works!
This past week voracious hunters arrived in the backyard, but unlike most predators, I was quite pleased to welcome them onto the property.
Everywhere I look are shimmering, beautiful, lethal dragonflies.
Dragonflies prey on other insects – especially the ones that I find the most bothersome. They catch wasps in midair.
They eat ants.
They eat flies, so I’m especially pleased to see them darting around the barns.
They eat wasps. Last year I couldn’t get into my vegetable garden because of a yellow jacket nest that took me two weeks to destroy. If the dragonflies stick around I won’t have that problem this summer.
Actually, it doesn’t matter what they eat. They’re like jewelry for the yard.
Side-note: Just like there are birdwatchers whose hobby is identifying birds, there are also dragonfly-watchers. If you are one of those knowledgeable people, please let me know what species are photographed here. Thanks!
(Photographs taken by Steve using a camera that requires far more technical know-how than I have.)