New Coop Part Two and My Hectic Life

This post promises to be as discombobulated and full as my life has been lately. The chicken coop is perhaps the most exciting piece of news, but I also can’t not post about the incredible progress the gardens have been making and the spring feast that I shared with Dave, Meg, and Stanley last night.

Perhaps someday I’ll get back to those short one-topic posts, but not now. There’s just too much going on.

First, the coop.

As I shared in my last post, my brother Ben built the coop inside the garage two weekends ago. He didn’t have time to do the run until last weekend, so in the meantime we let the girls out into the yard (supervised of course) to stretch their legs. They had fun, but it became very apparent that they would ruin the lawn in a matter of a few days, so they spent most of their time cooped up in the coop.

It was fun to watch them become accustomed to their new chicken door. Here’s Blondie thinking “I got out of this thing, I wonder if I can get back in?”

Might as well give it a try. Red Hen is a bit taken aback by all the unnecessary flailing.

It worked! Red Hen, by the way, has completely gotten over her broodiness. Whew! I was hoping the move would do it, and it looks like it did.

We were gone on a three day camping trip this weekend, and when we got back on Sunday, Ben had this much of the run finished. The wood is all cedar – very nice! He and my other brother Dave worked on it for most of the day on Saturday. It pays to have brothers! Stanley and I dug a 6 inch trench around the inside of the walls and buried chicken wire to keep any digging predators out. Raccoons are my biggest worry. I feel pretty certain that they will not be able to get in here.

We let the girls out for one last graze in the big yard, and they happily dust bathed and scratched and did everything they could to destroy the lawn before they got stuck in the run.

Putting the last of the screws (this took a bit longer than expected as his ratcheting screwdriver broke and he needed a new one) in the galvanized roof. What a beautiful run!

Here it is today, with the girls all moved in. As expected, they’ve just about destroyed all the grass. I’ll probably put straw down so it doesn’t get too muddy.

The side toward the street…..

….and the back side with the door. I plan on getting a padlock just in case someone decides to mess with them when I’m not around.

As you can see, the girls are very visible from the street, which is awesome. There are a lot of pedestrians that pass by and it’s really fun to see them notice the coop. There’s just something about chickens that makes people smile. I also really like how it’s changed the look of our house – it’s no longer just a house with a garage on a corner. It’s a house with a garage on a corner with a chicken coop!

OK, I know that was enough for one post, but June doesn’t stop just because I’ve got a new chicken coop……

Friday was my birthday. I was by myself in the morning, and I decided that the thing to do was to pick strawberries. Most of the u-picks were closed, but I did find Berry Hill Farm, a 2 1/2 acre farm on the edge of town that was open for picking.

I soon learned why all of the other u-picks were closed. It has been raining a lot this month, and the strawberries are hurting because of it. About half of them at this farm were either rotting or moldy, or both. The hot weather we had early in the season brought the crop on earlier than normal, so I had missed the peak. That, on top of the rain made for disappointing picking.

I got 3 quarts. These two I froze right away, and I brought one camping with us. Hopefully next year will be better.

Not to be discouraged, I headed to our Main Street garden to see what could be harvested.

Holy potatoes! I’ve never seen such big healthy plants! There was one that had fallen over, so I dug underneath to see what was there. Potatoes! Still small, but they’re there. We’ll be harvesting them all in a month of so. I wonder how many pounds we’ll get……

I was afraid these tomato plants were too small when I planted them just a few weeks ago. How wrong I was. They’re growing like crazy, and a few flowers are starting to form.

My row of peas is doing really well. Between Dave and Meg and Stanley and I we’ve been picking them about every other day, and there have been plenty to go around. It’s quite overgrown and when I can afford to I’ve been thinking of buying a cordless weed trimmer to help manage the growth.

The cherry tree is ripe too!

Is there anything as beautiful as a ripe red cherry?

More tomatoes. We’re going to have a canning bonanza this summer.

The peppers are slowly plugging along. They’ll get there.

The summer squash are looking good.

Baby concord grapes. The vines are just loaded.

The pole beans thinking about starting to climb.

Here’s what I brought home. a quart and a half of cherries, a few black caps (wild black raspberries that grow in back of the garden), peas, and a few token potatoes.

I went back on Monday and came home with this haul. More peas and black caps, more potatoes (for a special solstice feast), lots of lettuce, baby dill to dry, and cilantro and dill flowers for a centerpiece. I love June!

OK, almost done, I just have to show you a few pictures of the meal we had last night. It’s worth it, I promise.

I am really bad at pie crusts. It’s mostly lack of practice, and I know I’m only going to get better if I do it often, so I decided to go for it and make a crust for the berry pie I had planned. I made it with lard and butter, from this recipe on Epicurious. It actually worked!

Stanley went to the nearby park and heroically picked 5 cups of black caps for the pie. The mosquitoes are getting bad, so I believed him when he said that he lost about a pint of blood. It was worth it. I never use measurements for a pie like this. I added something like 3 Tablespoons of corn starch, 1 cup sucanat, the juice of 1/2 lemon, a little honey, a little salt, and I think that’s it.

Even the latice worked!! I put a dab of butter in all the holes, brushed it with milk, shook on some cinnamon, and put it in the oven. 15 minutes at 425, then about 45 at 350. It’s hard to turn your oven on to 425 degrees on a hot muggy day, but it proved to be worth it.

This was dinner. Burgers from The Rustic Table, salad from the garden, potatoes from the garden (coated with oil, put in a loaf pan, and cooked on the grill – YUM!), and cream of tomato soup.

I didn’t get any pictures of the soup. The milk curdled and I was too embarassed to let it be seen. It tasted good though. Onions and garlic browned in butter, add a bit of flour and cook a while longer, add a bunch of milk, a few bay leaves, a tiny bit of sucanat, and salt. Cook till it’s thickened, then add tomatoes. I still have some frozen puree from last year, which is why I made the soup in the first place. It really did taste good, but it sure did look bad.

I’ll leave you with this picture of one of the nicer pies I have ever made. The crust was flakey, the berries weren’t too juicy….. I’ll have to make a point of making more pies this summer until I get it right every time.

The New Coop Part One

Happy chickens in their new home….. well, freaked out and confused chickens in an unfamiliar coop is more like it, but I’m sure in a day or two they’ll feel right at home. Ben, my older brother who’s a carpenter with a construction firm in town, came over yesterday and today and roughed out this coop for me in the garage. It’s amazing how fast a professional can do something that might take me at least a few weeks….. Thanks Ben!

Here’s what we started with. The galvanized roofing and the cedar posts are for the as yet unbuilt run (that will be part 2 of this post). The rest of the lumber and the OSB board is for the indoor coop. I needed some tools which I got hold of cheaply. Ben gave me a list and for the life of me I never knew what an oscillating multitool was before. 😉

The idea was to build the coop into the garage to save room in the side yard for a large covered run. OSB isn’t the most attractive choice, but since that’s what the inside of the garage is made of, we figured it wouldn’t hurt to continue the look.

The framing. The structure is 4×8 and leaves just enough room to park a car in the garage. The consensus on is that chickens need at least 4 square feet per bird in the coop and 8 square feet in the run. 32 sq ft leaves plenty of space for the girls in the coop, plus they’ll have a 13×5 run, which gives them way more than 8 sq. feet of outdoor space. It’s a little smaller than the coop they’re used to, but it should be plenty of space.

We decided it would be best to give the structure its own roof so that chicken dust doesn’t permeate the rest of the garage.

Ben bought the door used at our local Restore. Again, we weren’t going for looks in the inside part of the coop…..

At this point, Ben ran electricity to the structure and installed an overhead light on a switch.

Here’s how he left it Sunday night…. chicken observation window installed, overhead light connected and working…..

Today he added the pop door, an outside window, and the roost, nest box, and feeders. Here’s the hole for the chicken door.

He cut the door itself from an old ugly light cover from Restore. It’s cute – I may have to paint it red though, just so it matches the rest of the house. (I took the price tag off right after I took the picture…. $3.99)

The hole cut for the outside window. The chickens have an excellent view of the neighbor’s TV. Maybe they’ll start following her soaps!

Here’s the window going in in the rain. We bought the cheapest window you can get at Menards, and we got what we paid for. Luckily chicken’s aren’t picky.

The finished garage coop, or the OSB Hut as Ben puts it. It’s cute! I think I may paint it eventually, just for kicks. You can see our red fence through the outside window in this picture.

This is just to the left of the door. Roosts, poop board, and nest boxes. The roost is at 3’6″, with the poop board 6″ below that. I’m a little concerned that the girls won’t be able to easily get up there, but I don’t think it will be a problem. The nest boxes I bought online for $20. Basically just a bunch of plywood that Stanley and I screwed together. I think eventually we’ll build something a little fancier, hopefully making it so that we don’t have to go in the coop to collect eggs.

I will have to get some linoleum for the poop board soon, so I can easily scrape the girl’s nightly poos into a bucked for composting. The OSB board will do for now though.

The wall mounted feeders I got from eNasco, a local mail order company. They were only about $5 a piece, and worth every penny. I’m really hoping that they won’t waste as much feed as the trough feeder in the old coop.

Today was the last day of my lease at the Marquette Street house, so I needed to get the girls over here. I woke up early and went over to clean the old coop. In order to do that I had to kick the chickens out, leaving them out in the rain for the majority of the day. They seem to be adjusting, but there’s no doubt that it’s been a hard day for them.

I found them this evening all piled up in the corner by the feeder trying to sleep, so I picked them each up and put them on the roost, which they seemed to appreciate. They’re all sleeping peacefully now…. tomorrow we’ll let them out into the side yard to free range a little. Ben should be back to build the run sometime this week.

Before I sign off, I wanted to show off my new composter. I had thought about trying to make something like this, but I didn’t have the time or inclination, so I bought this one from Rainbarrels and More, an online company based in Indiana. They’re repurposed pickle barrels that originally were used to ship sweet pickles from India. My plan is to fill one and let it compost while I’m filling the other. It should allow me to have an easy continuous system for chicken poo and food waste. They rotate really easily, which should help them compost quickly.

The lids are cool – almost like a Ball jar with a ring that screws on and holds a cap in place. Lots of airholes for ventilation, and to let rainwater it.

The bars that go through the middle should help the compost get mixed well as we turn it. Pretty cool!

Look for part 2 of the new coop soon!

Culturing Dairy and Local Oat Cakes

I created this supremely local treat last weekend – Scottish oat cakes (made with local oats, and homemade butter and buttermilk,) topped with homemade cream cheese and fig jam. It was a long and involved process – especially all the dairy culturing – but worth it! This is based on a recipe from my childhood, and it even surpassed all my good memories!

Step one was to make the cream cheese, which is actually not true cream cheese, but a spreadable tangy cheese made from strained yogurt. I used homemade yogurt had been sitting in the fridge for over a week and needed to be used up. I poured the yogurt in a small colander lined with several layers of cheese cloth over top a Tupperware bowl.

I tied the cheese cloth over the yogurt with a rubber band and weighted it with this bag of beautiful local beans that I picked up at the farmer’s market on Saturday. It’s a mix of about 6 different bean varieties – almost too pretty to cook!

After about 10 hours, the yogurt had reduced to about half it’s original volume.

It’s hard to see in this picture, but the bowl underneath the yogurt had about 3 cups of a clear liquid (whey) that had strained off. Whey cool!

And here’s the finished cheese. It’s thick and creamy – about the consistency of cream cheese – relatively low fat, very high in protein – and it’s delicious!

My next task was to make butter to use in the oat cakes. I’ve been making my own butter pretty consistently for a few months now – it’s so good, and easy to make! Nobody makes butter in this county from Humboldt County cream, so it’s also the only way to get truly local butter. If you haven’t been converted to the wonders of butter, follow this link to the Weston A Price Foundation website. The cream is from Humboldt Creamery, which is mostly pasture raised – even better! The above picture is step one: heating the cream to about 180 degrees to sterilize it.

I cooled the cream to about 110 degrees and added the starter culture: a few tablespoons of this organic cultured sour cream. I would have used my own yogurt, but it had been sitting for over a week and I wasn’t sure that the bacteria were still strong enough to make a good culture.

I poured the cream into two jars. The cream in the quart jar was for butter. The pint jar was for sour cream.

I wrapped the warm jars in dish towels and let them sit overnight in this cooler – can you find the cat in the picture?

The next day, it was thick and tangy – perfect!

I put the pint jar in the fridge to eat as sour cream, and dumped the cream from the quart jar into the food processor.

After about 4 minutes of processing, the butter separated from the buttermilk.

I poured off the buttermilk. It’s tangy – great for baking or making salad dressing. I had enough to do both!

I poured some cold water into the processor, processed it with the butter, and strained if off. This cleans any remaining buttermilk from the butter. I had to do it 6 times until the water that drained off was totally clear. If there’s any buttermilk left, it will go rancid and ruin the butter. It’s also important that it be cold water, since warm water will melt the butter.

I strained the last of the water out of the butter by pressing it into this sieve.

I bought this nifty French butter dish at a local fair recently. The bottom half has about 2 inches of salt water in it, and the top half gets packed with butter.

It stores really well like this on the counter. The water makes an airtight seal around the butter and keeps it nice and fresh. We’ve learned not to keep it too close to the stove since the butter gets too warm and soft and slips down into the water.

The next step was to make the oat cakes. These are local, unrolled oats from Shakefork Farm in Arcata. These oats were the inspiration for this entire process – they’re fresh and delicious, and I wanted to try them in this recipe.

Here are the oats after being processed for about 5 or 6 minutes – pretty fine, but not as fine as flour. Here’s the full recipe:

  • 3 cups oats, blended
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 scalded milk or cream (or buttermilk)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix oatmeal, flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in butter with hands. Dissolve soda in hot milk, add to dry mixture. Roll to 1/3 – 1/4 inches. Cut into round shapes using the top of a glass. Bake on a greased cookie sheet for 10 minutes.

Here’s the dough. It’s pretty crumbly, and seems too dry to roll out….

…but somehow it works. Here’s the glass that I used to cut the cakes into rounds.

And here they are coming out of the oven. These are really good – a little chewy, and deliciously oaty!

Finally, it was time to make the fig jam. I got these super-ripe and delicious Black Mission figs at the farmer’s market on Saturday. These have an extremely limited season. They’re also pretty pricey, but worth every penny – they’re one of the produce items I look forward to the most all year!

Here they are cut up. You can see how deliciously ooey-gooey they are!

I cooked them with local honey, orange peel, and cinnamon.

After about 30 minutes, the jam was thick, sweet and beautiful to behold.

It made a little over a pint of pure goodness!

Finally, late Sunday afternoon, everything was ready! It was almost dinner time, so I just made one to taste.

Later, we indulged ourselves in a delicious, almost completely local dessert. Mmmmmm! The jam has an almost jewel like quality. It’s sweetness is perfectly complemented by the tangy cheese, and chewy, not too sweet oat cakes. It was a lot of work, but I’ve had plain oat cakes with tea for breakfast every morning this week, and a delicious dessert every night! 

September Garden Pictures

The dahlias are blooming! I’m not sure exactly what this variety is – it’s one of the many perennials that were were planted by the lady who started these gardens in the 1950s. The plant itself gets to about 6 feet tall, and the biggest blooms are about 8-10 inches across. They’re just beautiful! The blooms haven’t been as heavy this season as in past years, but it’s still the centerpiece of the late summer/early fall garden.

Here’s the back garden. You can see how big the dahlia gets. It’s always a challenge to stake it up so the blossoms don’t fall over – they’re really heavy. The two flowers in the foreground are some beautiful mums that I got from the Co-op a few years ago – they were half dead, so I got them for free! They’ve done really well, and they put on a great show for us every fall.

We’ve also been preparing the lawn for over-wintering. We do this by using a mulching lawn mower to sort of shred the cuttings and return to the lawn as a fertilizer.

I think this is some kind of anemone. They grow all around the house, probably planted here at one time, but they’ve spread themselves around and are somewhat wild now.

The apples are almost ready!

We’ll be picking them in just a few weeks and I’ve bought some tree loppers to reach the high ones.

This beautiful hydrangea has been completely massacred by the deer this year. It was overgrown with blackberries when we moved in. Last year we cleaned out around it, and the bush grew really well – healthier than I’d ever seen it. I guess it looked good to the deer too – good enough to eat that is. These are the only two blossoms they left, and they even ate most of them. Bummer.

This climbing rose in the back garden has a bumper crop of rose hips. I’d like to dry some for tea, but I’m not sure if I’ll find time this autumn to do it. It’s rare to have dry enough weather here to dry things in the sun, and unfortunately I don’t have a dehydrator. They’re just gorgeous on the rose bush though….

This is a weird phenomenon on the same rose bush that I haven’t been able to figure out. These “puffballs” grow around some of the rose hips. It’s definitely plant material, but if you split it open, there are little worms that live in the center. Even my Dad, a plant expert, had never seen anything quite like it.

The Catnip has done really well this year! I planted a few cuttings this spring, and they’ve grown into this gigantic bush. Our cat, Leo just loves the stuff, and we’ve caught more than one neighborhood cat sneaking into the garden to partake….

I cut this spring mix back a few weeks ago, and it’s grown back nicely. This will make a great salad for tonight’s dinner!

This is the Lumina Pumpkin that I planted from the seeds of an old pumpkin that sat on the porch for over a year….

It’s been blooming for a while, and finally developed this little pumpkin. There are lots more blossoms that look like they may develop into pumpkins….

I’m not sure that there’s still time in the season for them to ripen, but who knows?

This is my only successful pepper. The garden center was having a “save a pepper” sale a month or so ago, so I bought three little sickly plants for $.50 each. This is a Bulgarian Carrot Pepper, that’s done pretty well. They should turn orange in the next month. The other two plants have a pepper or two on them, but they don’t look nearly as good as this one. Growing peppers and tomatoes here on the coast is never a very successful endeavor. It just doesn’t get hot enough.

These Sugar Snap Peas are doing really well! I planted them from seed a month or so ago. There aren’t any blossoms yet, but the plants are growing inches every day. I think it should stay mild enough in the next month or so that the peas will be able to form. It all goes well, we’ll have Sugar Snaps for Halloween!

Butter and Cod

This was a quick mostly local Friday night dinner that turned out surprisingly well. The trick? Lots of the homemade butter I made last weekend.

Here’s the butter ball that I made. The butter that supposedly comes from the local creamery is not actually made here from local cream. They buy butter from Fresno and package it under the Humboldt Creamery label. Pretty sad when you realize that Humboldt County was once known for producing the best butter in the state! I decided that since I’m doing this local challenge, I had to make some real local butter!

I used Humboldt Creamery heavy cream -actually produced locally from local cows. I won’t go into the whole process now, I’ll leave that for another post, but basically I cultured the cream and then whipped it into butter in the food processor. I didn’t salt it or anything, but boy is it good! I’m a sucker for butter, and this is some of the best butter I’ve ever had! It’s nice and yellow, which means its got lots of vitamins and comes from cows eating good healthy grass.

This is the crust I made for the fish. Coarse cornmeal (another long forgotten item in the cupboard,) dried parsley from the garden, salt, and pepper.

This is a little less than a pound of locally caught Black Cod. A beautiful piece of fish!

I cut the fish into pieces, dried it with a paper towel, coated it with melted butter, dredged it in the cornmeal crust, and put it in this baking dish with the leftover melted butter drizzled on top. I baked it for about 20 minutes in a pretty hot (420 degrees) oven. Halfway through the cooking I decided to add some of the garlic from the garden, so I chopped some up and sprinkled it on top.

These are green beans from Ed in Blue Lake. They’re seriously some of the most flavorful beans I’ve ever had! I’m not usually a big green bean person, but I can’t seem to get enough of these. They’re from the same farm that the beans at the La Trattoria feast in August came from. I steamed them while the fish cooked.

Here’s the finished meal. The fish was just delicious – buttery, flaky, with a wonderfully crunchy crust. The beans were cooked perfectly, and it was all complemented well by some of the wonderful local salad mix from Bayside. I’ve been using just olive oil and vinegar to dress my salads, and really enjoying it – it lets you really taste the flavor of the greens.

A Local Feast At La Trattoria

Life’s been pretty busy for me the last few weeks. I haven’t had much time to cook, and when I have had time, there was no time to take pictures or blog about it.

Last week we had the opportunity to attend a very special meal at La Trattoria (my favorite restaurant it town,) however. It was a “price fixed” meal, reservations required, and everyone was served the same things at the same time. It wasn’t cheap – $38.00 per person, plus a bottle of wine, but it was worth it! The entire 5 course meal was entirely made of locally grown ingredients. As far as I could tell, the cook didn’t even use olive oil or salt, which for a good Italian restaurant is quite a feat! 

We started off with a bottle of Merlot from Winnett Vineyards, in Willow Creek. The restaurant was only serving wines that were grown and vinted in Humboldt County, and Winnett is one of the few good ones that fit the bill. The first course (above,) was Humboldt Grassfed Beef carpacio, (raw beef pounded very thin,) topped with fresh arugula, Pierce Family Farm bell peppers, and Earthly Edibles onions.

The second course was a barley soup with roasted vegetables and basil. Wow! I was really amazed at how much flavor the vegetables and herbs had without salt or other spices. The barley was from Shakefork Community Farm, one of the only farms in our area attempting to grow grains. It was delicious!

It looked so good, I started eating the main course before I remembered to take a picture – Lamb, braised in a white wine sauce with herbs and vegetables, and beans from Warren Creek Farm. The lamb was melt in your mouth tender, and the beans were the perfect complement. Wow again!

This was the “Contorno,” course, a small vegetable course between the main course and dessert – Green beans stewed with tomatoes, onion, garlic, and basil. It was kind of an odd course by itself, but delicious none the less.

Unfortunately, I finished the dessert before I remembered to take a picture! I guess that’s sign that I liked it! It was peach ice cream made with Neukom Family Farm peaches and Humboldt Creamery cream, sweetened with local honey. It was really good – not too sweet. They served it with herbal tea (peppermint or mormon.)

Again, all this was grown locally – everything. If only I could eat like this every night!

Lettuce Soup

I just love recipes like this one that really stretch your ideas about how ingredients should be used. Who ever heard of cooking lettuce? I had a lot of it from the garden that I wanted to harvest before it got bitter, so I looked around the Internet to find recipes that use a lot of lettuce. I found a few recipes on for lettuce soup – it sounded interesting and easy, so I decided to go for it.

First, I sauteed onions, (local) garlic, and a russet potato in olive oil. I added chicken stock, cooked it for about 15 minutes, and then added the greens….

Here’s the lettuce and herbs before they started cooking. I used green leaf lettuce, and a little bit of sorrel, parsley, and sage, all from the garden.

It started to cook….

and cook…..

Here I am pureeing it with the hand blender.

This isn’t the best picture, but this is what it looked like in the bowl with croutons and dollop of sour cream (the recipe didn’t call for cream, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.) It was surprisingly tasty! The texture was similar to a pureed spinach soup, but the flavor was lighter than spinach. It kept its lettuce-y flavor, which somehow worked in soup form. Definitely a great way to use up a bunch of lettuce!

Late June Garden Pics

The onions are blooming! This is a red onions I planted last fall. The plant is about 3 feet tall! It’ll be ready to dig soon.

The Rose Campion is doing really well this year – I just love the color! The plant has been here for who knows how long, but up until this year is was so stifled under ivy and blackberry vines that it only had one or two blooms. We cleared it out late last summer, and it’s going off this year!

The tomatoes are doing pretty well. This one is blooming already. It’s still pretty small, but I guess I’ll just watch it to see what happens. I’ve learned not to be overly optimistic about growing tomatoes here – it’s just too cold in the summer-time.

I harvested all the lettuce leaves (for soup!) but I left the plants in the ground so they can re-seed themselves. I had lots and lots of volunteer squash and tomatoes coming up amongst the potatoes, so I transplanted a few among the lettuce. We’ll see what happens. I don’t have a lot of money to spend on plants, so I decided to try an all volunteer veggie garden this summer.

We finally got the soaker hose out this weekend, so at least I’ll know things are getting enough water. I had been neglecting the watering pretty badly, but with the soaker hose all I have to do is turn in on for 15 or 20 minutes every few days.

All the forest fires in Northern California this the past week have brought an unusual amount of smoke our way. There’s no fog in this picture, it’s all smoke billowing in from the fires. We don’t usually get much smoke here on the coast, but I guess the wind’s just right this time, plus there’s a lot of fires burning. It’s pretty odd to have it be overcast, but without clouds.

The kaffir lime tree on the front porch is really happy now – It’s setting lots of new leaves. There’s really no decent Thai food in this area, so I’m forced to make it at home. Kaffir lime leaves are an essential ingredient, and I can’t always get them at the C0-op.

This is the French sorel on the front porch. It seems to like it there. I love the sour taste of the leaves – especially in salad.

The back garden is nicer than it’s ever been. The deer haven’t raided it yet this year, so we have an unusual amount of un-chewed-on-plants.

This rose always blooms around the Fourth of July. It’s quite patriotic with the blue lobelia behind it!

Th fuchsia by the front door is going off right now as well. The blooms are so intricate, they always look fake to me….

Killer Chocolate-Cherry Birthday Cake

I’m not kidding when I call this cake killer! I made it for the birthday potluck I had on Saturday, and it was about as rich as a cake can possibly be.

These are local cherries from Willow Creek. It was perfect timing – the cherry harvest is in full swing up there! I got a mixture of Bing and Rainer cherries from Neukom Family Farm – growers of some of the tastiest fruits in all of Humboldt County!)

Here they are pitted. It took a while, but I did it all with just a paring knife. My hands were stained yellow by the time I was done!

Lots and lots of whipped cream, with a tiny bit of sugar, vanilla, and cherry flavoring added.

And here are the caked! I quadrupled this recipe from Epicurious. It’s amazingly simple, and amazingly rich – just chocolate, butter, sugar, eggs, and cocoa powder. I made quite a bit – I wasn’t sure how many people to expect, and I certainly didn’t want to run out of cake!

Here’s the first layer of cake. There were six layers in all. Between each I slathered on whipped cream and a layer of cherries.

Here it is almost frosted. Mmmmm…..

And here’s the finished cake! I covered it in chocolate shavings for an added touch. The only drawback to this cake is that it was very very very rich. Too much could make you feel a little woozy. It was amazing in small doses though!

June-Birthday Locavore Pesto

My birthday was last week – Johnny and I took the day off and went to the South Fork of the Trinity – about an hour and a half drive up into the mountains. It was about 20 degrees hotter there than in Arcata – it’s so nice to get away from the coastal cold foggy-ness! I will get to the food, but I wanted to post some of the pictures from the river. It was just gorgeous!

There were some rapids, but we managed to find places we could safely swim downstream. We didn’t take any chances – people have died on this river!

Lots of cool wildlife! This frog seemed like he was enjoying getting his picture taken!

The same day we came home and made an almost-locavore-birthday-dinner. Here are the main ingredients:

A few new potatoes from the garden! They’re definitely not all ready yet, but I don’t think it hurt the plants at all to take some. We’ll have lots more soon!

This garlic is from G Farms in the Arcata bottoms. They’re growing a bunch to sell to the Co-op, and this is a sample I got when I visited the farm two weeks ago.

Summer squash from Willow Creek! I love it when the blossoms are still fresh!

Basil from Orleans. It had been in the fridge for a few days, so it was starting to brown a little, but it was still perfect for pesto.

I made a super simple pesto with the basil, olive oil, walnuts, lemon juice, Parmesan, salt, and pepper. I don’t really measure any of those ingredients, I just blend them together till it tastes right.

I roasted the veggies with olive oil and two small pork chops. The pork was not local – when it comes to meat I’d rather know that the animals were raised humanely and naturally than having it be local. I’d really rather it was both humane and local though! Anybody want to raise hogs in Humboldt? I’d buy some!

We have so much lettuce in the garden! This is all freshly harvested, about 5 minutes before we ate. I mixed it with some purslane from Little River Farm in Bayside.

Here it is. Roasted veggies, pork, salad, and fresh pesto. The perfect early summer birthday meal!