Saturday, May 2, 2020

I'm Just Here for the Validation

You know how it is when you accomplish something relatively small but nonetheless satisfying and you just know no one else is even going to notice, much less congratulate you on your accomplishment?

That was today, when I finally climbed up and down a chair many, many times to scrub off the disgusting combination of grease* and dust that was furring all the high edges of cabinets and the ceiling fan in the kitchen.

No one will notice this in my house except for me. Therefore, I'm just going to share this minor accomplishment with the Internet at large so as to feel appreciated.

Have you accomplished anything unheralded but satisfying lately? Please do share so I can congratulate you.

* I fry things a lot. Mostly meat. I have often thought that my kitchen would be a lot easier to keep clean if I wasn't feeding so many militant carnivores every day. 

Friday, May 1, 2020

Friday Food: The Elk Is Back


Short version: Mutton backstrap, pasta, frozen green peas

Long version: The backstrap is one of the best cuts of meat, which means I don't have to do anything with it other than slice it, season it, and fry it. Which I did. And it was good.

The pasta had random sauce I made from some pureed tomatoes (the tasteless Sysco ones that I cooked a bit and then pureed in the food processor, skins and all, before putting small containers of it in the freezer), the last two cubes of pesto from the freezer, and some heavy cream. Sometimes those kinds of thrown-together sauces work, and sometimes they don't. This one worked.

Probably it was mostly because of the pesto. I really hope the eleven basil plants I have to plant out soon make it and produce a lot of basil for pesto this year.


Short version: Ground beef tacos with homemade corn tortillas

Long version: Standard taco meat and tortillas, with the exciting addition of hot chili sauce for A. I make taco meat pretty mild--I could claim it's because of all the small children I'm feeding, but really it's because of me and my wimpy tastebuds--and A. has said he would like some hot sauce to put on tacos and chili and so on.

I was going to buy some hot sauce, but then I decided that was stupid when I had a huge bag of dried red chilis A. bought at the store a couple of months ago. All I did with them was soak them in hot water until they were soft, then puree them in the food processor and add some salt and vinegar. It was pretty hot, and A. was very pleased with it. As was Cubby. His tastebuds are far tougher than mine.

Random photo break! A. took this one down in the canyon at a place they stopped to fish (unsuccessfully):

This looks unreal to me, like a movie set or something.


Short version: Pork, breads, squash, frozen green beans, graham cracker cookies

Long version: Pork butt cooked carnitas-style (that is, slow cooked, then fried in lard), more of the garlic bread dough that I cut into individual portions and allowed the children to season as they wished, and the very last of the frozen squash from last year.

The cookies are a recipe I got from the lady we used to buy milk from. They have only whole-wheat flour and the main sweeteners are Sucanat (the lady gave some to me, which is the only reason I have it) and honey. That makes them practically health food. I make them in small squares and call them cookies. They're pretty good, actually, although calling them cookies is a stretch.


Short version: Split-pea curry, leftover pork, leftover rice, frozen green beans, arugula salad

Long version: My children sometimes engage in what I call "mob eating." That is, one of them gets so enthusiastic about a particular food that they all jump on the bandwagon and eat multiple servings of whatever it is. In this case, it was the curry.

It was just a yellow curry of split peas, with some random pureed tomatoes I needed to use up, and a bit of heavy cream, but the children, led by Cubby, ate SO MUCH CURRY. They all ate two servings of  rice and curry and, when the rice was gone, started on bowls of just curried split peas. I put a stop to that after a couple of bowls each. I feared for their digestion.

The arugula was starting to bolt and will definitely finish that process in the multiple days this weekend when we're supposed to be over 90 degrees (WHAT?), so I pulled it up. I'm sad to say good-bye to the arugula. It never lasts as long as I would like it to.

I helped Jack do one of the crafts his preschool teacher sent home:

It's a chick. He did not like it, hence the sulky face.

And then, of course, Poppy wanted to make something, so I stretched my creativity to the limit and helped her make a pig:

You think I'm joking, but this really is the limit of my crafting ability. I would be the world's worst preschool teacher.


Short version: Leftover curry, boiled potatoes, fried eggs, frozen green beans

Long version: Despite his enthusiasm the night before, Charlie elected to not have the curry over the potatoes. Everyone else had it, though, along with the eggs and the inevitable green beans.


Short version: Pizza, cucumber slices with vinegar and salt

Long version: I decided to make pizza mostly because I needed to trim the basil plants that are really getting too tall for the grow box in the kitchen but can't go outside just yet. Also, it was going to be cool enough to crank the oven up for pizza without wanting to douse myself in ice water.

As if I really need reasons to make pizza.

These were particularly good, too. One was just cheese, and one was half bacon with anchovy paste and half roasted bell pepper and onion/green garlic/thinly sliced raw onion.

I ate the one with the variety of alliums, which was one of the best pizzas I have ever had. More alliums, more better.

And why did we have bell peppers and cucumber? Because A. went to the grocery store. For the first time in seven weeks. I was SO EXCITED.

So were the children. They dove right into the grapes as soon as he got home. I had a seltzer. And there was much rejoicing in the land.


Short version: Elk bites, leftover potatoes, green salad with ranch dressing

Long version: You thought the elk was gone, didn't you? THINK AGAIN.

There are still at least three bags of elk in the freezer. I figured enough time had elapsed since we last ate it that the children wouldn't be too displeased to see it on their plates.

I was right. They all went back for seconds of meat. The ketchup I allow them to have it with it might have something to do with that.

Charlie ate all of his salad without comment, which is how I discovered that it's not the salad he objects to, but the vinaigrette I usually make for a salad dressing. It doesn't take much longer to make the ranch dressing, so I guess I'll be doing that more often.

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Welcome to the Hatchery

I'll just start off with the picture everyone is waiting for: The fluffy chicks.

Taken right after I put fresh paper towels down in their tub, because otherwise it's just too nasty to show the world. Birds are gross.

I've never used an incubator before to hatch eggs, but we have fertilized eggs, thanks to our mean rooster that terrifies the children, but apparently fulfills his natural duties. A. was starting to talk about making a homemade incubator, but the temperature and humidity have to be within a very small range for the chicks to form correctly, and I was worried about cooking the chicks or something in a homemade incubator.

So then I looked into buying an incubator, but I could see right away that you definitely get what you pay for with incubators, and I did not want to spend hundreds of dollars on a good one.

And THEN, Jack's preschool teacher mentioned she was thinking of borrowing an incubator from one of the other teachers. This is one of the incubators they use at the school to hatch chicks with the kids every year, but obviously, that was not happening this year. So I offered to keep the incubator here and take care of the eggs given to me by the preschool teacher, along with thirteen eggs of our own.

It seemed sort of unlikely that putting the same eggs I eat for breakfast into a heated styrofoam box would result in chickens, but I took the leap of faith that is artificial incubation.

This incubator was a really nice one. Not only does it have a thermostat and temperature regulator, it also has a humidity read-out (although it required some experimentation to figure out how much water to put in at what intervals to keep the humidity at the right level). 

And most importantly, it turns the eggs automatically.

The eggs have to be turned so the forming chicks don't stick to the side of the egg. Without an automatic turner, I would have had to turn every single egg at least three times a day.

I could do without that kind of commitment. I found it hard enough to keep the humidity levels at the right place.


After ten days of incubation, the eggs can be candled. This is just shining a light through the egg, and is how you determine if the chicks are actually forming in there or if the egg is a dud. As you might guess from the name, this was originally done with an actual candle, although the best method in the modern day is using the light on a smart phone.

I found that really funny.

Anyway again.

The light from the phone showed us that all thirteen of our eggs seemed to be developing, and only two of the preschool teacher's eggs were. I removed the non-fertile eggs, leaving 15 eggs still in the incubator. And then, ten days later, I woke up to cheeping in the kitchen.


Chicken eggs are supposed to take 21 days to hatch, and that little dude (or, I hope, dudette) was early. It spent a lonely day in the incubator with nothing but eggs for company until the next chick started to break out just before the children's bedtime.

Of course, I let them stay awake to watch it hatch out all the way:

It took the chick about half an hour to get all the way out, by which time I was reeeeally tired and the children were reeeeally hyped up.

By the next morning, there were three more already hatched out and one more working its way out. We watched that one hatch out all the way, too.

Newly-hatched chicks are really not cute. They're pretty wet and unappealing, actually.

One more chick hatched out later that day, bringing our total to seven. 

They're supposed to stay in the incubator until they're dry, so I left them in there until that night and then transferred them to their feed-tub brooder in the kids' bathroom, leaving the remaining eight eggs in the incubator.

It's possible for chicken eggs to hatch as late as 25 days, so I'm going to leave those eight in there until tomorrow, although I don't really think they're going to do anything.

Two of the seven chicks are going to the preschool teacher, leaving us with only five chicks. I was planning on putting new eggs into the incubator and doing it all over again, but now one of our hens appears to have decided to go broody.

So maybe she'll do it for me. But if she doesn't, I can go broody myself, with the help of some modern machinery.

Monday, April 27, 2020

We Have Chicks!

And I hatched them myself!

Okay, so I didn't actually sit on a clutch of eggs myself until they hatched, but I did manage to successfully use an incubator for the first time ever to hatch chicks.

We have seven. They are very cute. Pictures and story to come when I don't have to spend the day on Zoom school meetings . . .

Until then, you can go read this thing I wrote for Kristen-with-an-"e" about going grocery shopping less frequently. (Of all the things I ever thought I would become an expert on, that was not a thing I had ever considered. Life sure is funny like that.)