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A jungle of Ronde de Nice squash blossoms and their developing squashlets

Nothing is as ephemeral or as potetially banal as summer squash.  As a teenage cook, working in not-so-fine-dining restaurants on this island I cooked a lot of zucchini every summer.  I think the chef I worked for chose zucchini as our perpetual “vegetable of the day” because it was inexpensive and easy to cook.  Trucked in from California, it was sort of fresh, and by that I mean it wasn’t frozen and it wasn’t canned.  And we certainly didn’t show it a lot of love:  We would make up a mixture of sauteed red onion, canned tomato and “Italian seasoning” and saute it all up together.  Zucchini came to represent to me the thing you put on a plate because you had a space to fill, the thing that you gave to your guest because you hadn’t thought about it very hard or because you didn’t know what else to do or because  you thought it was good enough.

I hated zucchini by the time I was 18. (more…)

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Clockwise from right: Amaracana, Buff Orpington, Black Giant and the first Narragansett Turkey egg

I was looking for a book on poultry health care so I checked Poultry Health and Management by David Sainsbury out from the library.  When I got it home, it turned out to be a book about commercial poultry production, and it had pretty much nothing in it dealing with our sort of farm.  It did have a some very interesting data however, like this chart which the author offers in the introduction. (more…)

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There has been a lot of discussion on FaceBook about two recent recalls of artisan cheese, one by Bravo Farms in California’s Central Valley and the other, perhaps more serious, by Sally Jackson Cheeses of Oroville, Washington.   Bravo Farms, which produces my favorite California Cheddar, “Silver Mountain”, is not tiny, but is small by any modern standard of a food production plant.  Bravo suffered a recall when the California Department of Food and Agriculture found both Listeria monocytogenes and E.Coli O157:H7 at their plant.  Cheeses were recalled even though, to date, no one has been confirmed to have gotten ill from eating their cheese.  The later FDA report of Bravo shows twelve separate dates when a team of three inspectors visited Bravo over a 26 day period and found numerous – though I must say rather minor – violations. Sally Jackson Cheeses has a far more serious problem, because their cheeses have sickened at least 8 people with the very serious E.Coli O157:H7.  As is evidences by both the photos on Jackson’s web site and the descriptions of the facilities in the FDA report, this is a tiny, ill-equipped “Mom & Pop” operation.  The FDA report is rather shocking in the number and nature of violations for which Jackson was cited. (more…)

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The array of eggs from our hens, from blue-green to white and cafe brown.

 

I had to do something this week that is thoroughly depressing and demoralizing:  I had to buy eggs.  Now that might not sound like such a big deal to many of you, but you have to understand that I have 21 chickens and 12 turkeys on my payroll and I do expect something in return for providing them with food, water and keeping the eagles and raccoons at bay.  Since the cold snap, however, and with the number of hours of daylight having dwindled to a precious few, the chickens have just plain stopped laying.  Each time I go to the coop and open the door to the laying boxes and look in with eyes full of hopeful anticipation I find a hen staring back at me with a look on her little chicken face that can only mean “It’s cold and dark out here.  If you want eggs, you lay them!” (more…)

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Here is a video of the four remaining Narragansett Turkeys we have here at our home on Whidbey Island.  We got a dusting of snow and the temperatures have been below freezing for several days, but the turkeys are unfazed.  So what?  Well, 99.9% of all turkeys produced for food in the world are not heritage breeds like these birds, they are one particular hybrid breed called broad breasted white, and those birds would be turkeycicles under conditions like these.  The Narragansetts have the option of hanging out in their coop with a heat lamp, but they choose to forage and frolic and play in the snow.  They are just more vigorous and healthy than the hybrids. (more…)

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The final product: Two young Narragansett hens that dressed out to almost 10 pounds each.

My family is about five months into our first efforts at raising turkeys for our own table.  An experienced farmers of heritage breed turkeys might be thinking something is a little wrong with my math because these turkeys take 30 weeks to reach maturity.  Ours hatched out on June 5th, so that puts them squarely at the 24 week mark.  Nonetheless, Thanksgiving is Thursday and we had to make a decision:  kill ours or find some one else’s to buy. (more…)

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Our 2010 crop of Narragansett Turkeys, the oldest breed of turkey there is.

While I have been buying Heritage Breed turkeys for the past eight years, this is the first time that they are making the very short trip from our back lawn to the oven, never having left our sight.  We got a bit of a late start, the birds having hatched out in the first week of June, so we will be culling two of the smaller hens rather than the big toms, which we will retain for breeding next years crop. (more…)

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