Thursday, October 16, 2014
When a friend sharing my zip code sent me over the image of a neighbors’ peacock on the roof of her house, just chilling…I admit I was enchanted. What a cool thing to discover visiting the roof of your house! Peacocks are stunning animals, I remember enjoying the other-worldly calls they make to each other when I visited the San Diego Zoo as a kid. Some rural folks choose to raise peacocks because they are known to be suspicious of strangers and can be used as an early warning, difficult to circumvent… security system. And who can’t stop in stunned silence when something so beautiful marches by in search of seeds and bugs.
So my daughter’s art assignment two weeks ago required a photo of a peacock from which she could paint. (The prompt was to paint something that “radiated out.” I suggested a pine cone. That wouldn’t do. I suggested a daisy flower. No…that was so a cliché.
Here in Rainbow, California there are quite a few peacocks roaming the streets…yet another endearing quality of living here in this tiny community. You do have to be mindful of driving carefully through the few streets that comprise our little town because of these birds. So camera in hand…mother and daughter ventured off to find a willing peacock to photograph for her project. No peacocks to be found. As is often the case with teenagers, she had allocated no time for Plan B. Certainly no time to drive all the way to the San Diego Zoo to photograph a willing peacock.
We drove to the epicenter of Known Peacock Encounters down the street from the only restaurant in town, and found someone working near the road pruning trees. He didn’t speak English, and my Spanish is…ahem…rusty, as he scratched his head trying to understand what in heaven’s name I was looking for as I spread my arms wide and wiggled my butt trying to mimic a peacock. Nothing. Then I came up with this embarrassingly simple query that even I could say in Spanish: “Where are the big birds? Only the men are beautiful?: Ahhhhhh! He said. And pointed to a house down the road.
It’s true, only the males sport the colorful plumage. The females are a bit smaller, and are mostly brown. No welcoming signage at the gate, I was wary of entering their property. Word to the wise: strangers are viewed warily out here: agricultural theft is among the biggest issues in Rainbow, and most farmers are ardent 2nd Amendment supporters. Just saying…anyway, the farmers’ young horseback riding daughter caught our eye as she galloped by, and alerted her mom to visitors’ presence.
So we had ventured out an hour earlier with the purely..I swear… innocent intention of coming home with nothing but photographs. But here was my daughter with that “I need this kitten” look on her face, and the cutest hand-raised peacocks you could ask for. Lots of them. And interestingly, they were being raised with chickens, so these babies would fit right into our free-range chicken aviary because they were already accustomed to living with chickens. There would be the matter of Farm Operations: What To Tell Lance who had placed a moratorium on Strange Acquisitions That Require an Increase in our Feed Bill And That He Has To Feed When We’re On Vacation. Options were weighed and balanced. While I negotiated the possible purchase of a pair of peacocks, my daughter snapped away at the adult males that roamed nearby. Art project mission accomplished.
Since the baby peacocks were the same size as our adult chickens, my daughter suggested Not Telling Lance. As in, he won’t notice right away because they blend…that’s right…they just can mix in with our chicken flock… and we have time to warm him up to the idea. Now I admit, I have owned a secret rooster, but keeping two peacocks that will soon be as big as turkeys a secret is beyond the scope of even what I think I can manage. You just can’t have that as Plan A. Full disclosure is best here I said. And my daughter was right, we had time, because the baby peacocks really do blend.
So as I sat down to coffee the next morning to go over the day’s farm duties, Louie, the farm manager had stopped to feed the chickens on his way in and discovered “guineas or something in the chicken barn.” I jumped up, coffee in hand and waved the universal shut up gesture across my neck…but too late. Unlike Lucy Ricardo, who typically planned ahead… I hadn’t formulated my exact presentation. You know, what came out, sounded better in my head. “ There’s peacocks in our chicken barn?”
At last we’re into cooler weather! We sure snuck by the usual, miserably hot 92028 summer out here until September. Then, we found ourselves working in sauna-like heat for a few weeks. Anyone who thinks they’d like to farm in rural San Diego should try September out here first before giving up their day job. :/
Here’s our harvest shot for this week. We also harvested a few late eggplants that ended up in some of the trade-in boxes, so if you have an eggplant in your possession from us…it’s either a Black Beauty or probably the beautiful, variegated Gandia. We do save seeds from our heirlooms, and sometimes the results are crossed the next year, so some of our eggplant this year seems to be crosses of the two main varieties we grow. There are ways to avoid cross pollination so that heirloom seeds come “true” each year…we don’t bother. Be aware that the chili peppers are indeed hot. Use only a tiny bit in your stir fries, and try the rest for future use. Even the tiny quantity given to each subscriber is waaaay more than most would need in a week. I’ve always thought that a good hot chili is a better than some medicines, even if you don’t enjoy the taste in cooking. Like wasabi, this week’s peppers are better than a decongestant if needed. Of course, I think almost anything edible is improved with a little heat.
For most of my life, I’ve shrugged my shoulders when friends asked me non-edible growing questions. If ya couldn’t eat it, I just wasn’t that interested. Over the years, even my home’s landscaping utilized mostly edibles…sometimes a less than ideal game plan when living under the restrictive guidelines of a HOA as I did in my early 30’s. Just saying….
But in the last few years, I have enjoyed adding non edibles on the farm, and have in particular fallen in love with the humble morning glory. The photo left, features three varieties’ seeds tossed among a row of rosemary. Morning Glories are as easy to grow as radishes, and are a great canary in the cave if planted next to edibles because they show drought stress sooner than the edible plants we have them growing with. I’ve noticed that they’re reseeding each year, so at least here…we haven’t had to plant new seeds each year. They are annuals, rather than perennials which really was among the top reasons I didn’t discover them sooner. I’ve always thought that if I was going to grow a plant that provided no food, at least it should last more than a few months for all the work involved in getting it started. But Morning Glories slide by my Annual Non-edible Nuisance Factor Rule by not needing to be replanted each year. Which is kinda, sorta, like a perennial. And as they twine and reach over stumps and rock outcroppings, their beautiful assortment of colors, sizes, and shades continues to amaze me.
Not that I’m ever going to be a non-edible aficionado, but adding ground cover retains valuable moisture, and in the case of flowering plants, gives our growing bee colonies an option when the occasional week arrives and nothing edible is in bloom. Like cats, bees are cared for or suffer. Yes, bees can be feral, but die-off can be dramatic if a caring beekeeper isn’t keeping tabs on maintaining an easily accessible water source and making sure the hives actually have enough flowers to keep them well fed. One clue that our bees are struggling in the heat is when we see them congregating in every little puddle left behind after the irrigation has turned off. Uncool. We’re hoping to add a tiny water feature near the hives so that our bees don’t have to waste energy searching for water when it gets really hot out here.
We’ve included Purslane in this week’s boxes, note the tasty, tiny black seeds are NOT bugs. Two kinds of peppers, the long, bigger peppers are sweet, and the jalapanos are, of course, hot. If you’re new to the Reed Avocado, it ripens a little bit differently than your typical grocery store Hass avocado. It’s still taking around a week after harvest to be ready to eat, but because as the fruit ripens the flesh contracts slightly, you might squeeze the fruit and think it’s gone bad. That “squish” isn’t fruit, it’s airspace. I love the Reeds, I think they have the nuttiest, smoothest flavor of all the different varieties we grow. They’re not favored by grocery store chains because of their size and weird ripening characteristic.
Come on out to Morning Song Farm for our beginning cheese making class. We’ll focus August’s class on a few of the fun and easy cheeses that will easily turn you into a cheese maker! Impress your friends with cheesey offerings and try out a fun and different hobby that brings dividends of appreciation. You may find that you’ll discover a passion for cheese as we have here at Morning Song Farm. It’s easier than you’d ever think! Follow along with handouts and easy to follow recipes so that your success is insured when you repeat the steps at home. We’ll talk about which milk to use, cultures, and why certified organic milk isn’t your best choice. We’ll make three different cheeses; Garlic Ricotta, Herbed Queso Fresco, Fromage Blanc, Paneer, Feta and Neufchatel cream cheese are among those we choose to make and sample during the class. Class starts at 10:00. Arrive 15 minutes early if you’d like, to sample herbed cheeses as well as our just churned butter with breads and muffins and coffee, while meeting your fellow cheese loving adventurers! Get a chance to meet the farm’s beautiful Nigerian dairy goats, and pet our friendly herd. Bring a crunchy granola bar or two and you’ll be everyone’s best friend, especially Carl The Herd Leader who eats anything but really gets excited if it’s crunchy.
Tuition: Even if you are a much appreciated farm member, payment and reservations for our cheese classes need to be made here so that we can use the Meetup software to keep an accurate headcount. Please, no impromptu arrivals. The class size is limited for a reason, so we need to have firm reservations. The pathway to the barn is rough and unpaved, so stash the stilettos or dress shoes; and opt for sneakers or boots for your cheese making day. Once the morning class is full, we’ll add an afternoon class if necessary.
Here’s the link to sign up:
We’re excited to share a new item we’ve been experimenting with, our Sunflower Shoots. We included them in all but two (:/) Large Garden N Grove boxes. (We made up for that unusual slight by substituting other items; something we rarely have to do.) We’re still working on getting the timing and yields down. The other clamshelled item is our Purslane, which is among my favorite warm weather veggies. It has a lemony flavor with a very low-cal, satisfying crunch. I add it to salads, sandwiches and offer it up all by itself with a dip. It’s a great green to add to a rice paper roll up. I enjoy the stems as well as the leaves. We actually harvested two bunches of Swiss chard for Large Boxes, and one bunch for Small boxes, but ended up with only one bunch in each box because we couldn’t get the Large Box lids closed with two bunches.
Lots of folks are on summer break from our CSA, including those that were ordering eggs. We have no wait list for eggs! If you would like to order eggs, please let us know. Here’s the Change Order Link:
I know I’ve said this…ahem…a few times; but all changes to your CSA box must go through our link. Facebook, Linked In, Post It Notes, Snail Mail, texts, voice messages, comments left with our delivery driver, comments left with your host, notes left on the roster… all have their place; but we have one crew member managing our rosters, and one place for any change affecting our weekly deliveries, and that’s our Link. I made it myself and I’m proud of it. Please help us out and use it when you have a change or quarter-end cancellation. Quarters end in June, September, December and March.
Morning Song Farm offers macadamia tours to the wholesale tour industry, and our signature “welcome to the farm” treat is a macadamia muffin that many have asked the recipe for. It’s been perfected over the years, and I share it here:
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup mashed banana
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 and 2/3 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup of heavy cream
1 cup crushed macadamias
1/3 cup pureed raisons
1/2 cup hemp hearts
Preheat oven to 350.
Cuisinart raisins and sugar and set aside. Don’t try to puree the raisins later, as it doesn’t work.
Combine eggs, sugar/raisin mix, and oil, beat together. Then blend in banana and vanilla. Set aside.
Combine all the rest of the dry ingredients.
Combine the raisin/sugar/eggs with dry ingredients, and then add cream and nuts.
Carefully spoon into the smallest muffin cups. Sprinkle hemp hearts like crumbs over the tops of each muffin, and then bake until just done. Overcook and the muffin isn’t tasty at all. So check, rather than rely on any particular time frame I can offer here. My oven requires 7-10 minutes.
Just a note about hemp hearts: Hemp cannot be grown in this country because of the War on Drugs as hemp is related to the marijuana plant. However, other countries allow their farmers to grow hemp…Canada for one, and Americans can buy hemp from others, we just can’t grow it here. I find my hemp from Sprouts.