Dan’s April charcuterie project was Bresaola! He bought 2 lbs of Oregon Country Beef‘s top round beef and cured it with a combination of #1 pink salt, juniper berries, bay leaf, salt, sugar – after having soaked it in red wine. WOW this is good – and I am not a huge fan of beef. It is so lovely so Thursday morning he made homemade buttermilk biscuits topped with a few slices of bresaola, my homemade apple/onion/ale relish and a fried egg. Totally heavenly eatin’!
More flowers continue to debut as we get further into Springtime! I can never remember the name of these white ones on the bush in our front garden that open and close with the sun, but I love them, and along with that, I’m crushin’ on the orange ranunculus, the two that survived our insanely rainy spring and are happy as can be under our winter gum tree. Nothing like flowers to ease the heart and mind…
Our veggie garden is also starting to look fairly normal. Finally! In the four primary raised beds we’ve got: 1) 16 tomato plants (12 of them from successful seed starting, the other 4 being heirlooms I wanted to try out and, to be honest, purchased as backups in case any of the 12 pooped out once planted in the beds, hah), 2 tomatillo…oh and FYI the ties are old pieces of shirts that were in too bad of shape to go to Goodwill – excellent repurpose!; 2) 16 pepper plants (for the first time, 12 are from seeds saved from last year’s crop! I’d mistakenly assumed they’d be hard to grow compared to tomatoes but actually it was easier and the results were more consistent…just a took a bit longer to germinate, ~10 days with the heat mat under them. The other 4 are hot peppers – serrano, habanero, cherry bomb and concho jalapeno – planted especially for Dan’s hot sauce and my pepper jelly. YUM.); 3) 12 French green bean plants (haricot verts) + 2 shell pea plants (two full plantings this spring, these were the only two that made it as the others drowned, ugh) + 9 cucumber plants (yeah I know I’m going over the top on these but I bought 3 different varieties, and as usual, forgot that 3 plants come in a start…d’oh! at least they’re a good duck snack in the hot weather!); 4) Tons of red and yellow onions, leeks, carrots and shallots (hopefully on the latter…first time attempting those and thus far they are not leaping out of the soil like the onions are…sigh…). We have lots of other things growing, of course, but after having a TON of raised beds in the past, last year we consolidated down to 4 raised beds, selling off about half of our cinderblocks to a neighbor, and integrated the rest into a potager-style garden. We love it so much more, as it beautifies the garden so much to have things like blueberries, blackberries, marionberries, artichokes, cardoons, scarlet runner beans, zucchini, rhubarb and a zillion different herbs growing all around. Along with that, we have pots with potatoes, strawberries, grapes and green onions…whew!
Our ducklings are definitely in teenager mode, quacking loudly if there are noises they don’t like (construction sounds from two lots down the street, Dan shaking out a tarp, a random plane overhead, etc.), and taking off randomly across the yard beating their wings wildly – Cocoa is the definite jumper, able to wildly leap almost 2 feet in the air in a very Greatest American Hero way, heh (oh and for you kids reading who weren’t old enough to remember this early 80’s series, click here). With the heat post-vacation getting a bit out of control (90 the day we got home, 84 today), we moved their giant “swim bucket” into the shade behind the garage so that in the heat of the day the water stays cool. They love love LOVE it. As they hit the 12 week mark as part of our little urban homestead, we’re doing well. They don’t mess around with the north side of the yard where my more delicate (and delicious, to them) things are including pineapple sage, bee balm, and the like, and are respecting the cheap wire fences I put around the blueberries and new zucchini starts. Knock on wood I don’t eat my words, hah. Like Ruby, they wake us up in the morning – usually Ruby comes into our room around 5:30-6am to be let out and fed, then by 6:30 or 7am we hear the first loud quacks. We leave their coop door open into the run so they can get fresh air as early as they want, and then let them free range most of the day. Can’t wait til July when eggs should finally be on the agenda!
With the bottom box now being pretty darn full, we added the top box on top this week to our Flow Hive. Within days we were able to peek in the window and see bees crawling around starting to bring in their pollen – nice!!! Last year we didn’t try to harvest any honey, as we wanted the hive to grow big and strong and make sure they had sufficient stores for winter, before doing any collection. VENT: Sadly, there are a lot of ignorant haters out there (most who’ve never bothered to TRY the Flow Hive, mind you) who assume that those of us who own Flow Hives (designed by 3rd generation Australian beekeepers, btw) are rich spoiled assholes solely looking for the “easy way out” of beekeeping or are uneducated and won’t take care of the bees, because they think we’ll not maintain the hives. Fuck them. After building our first mason bee house, we got this hive for FREE and immediately went to the local beekeepers’ association meeting and got matched up with a mentor, who helped me catch our swarm, then worked with my husband to show him hands-on the ins and outs of doing hive checks, what to look for, etc. Dan has fallen in love with beekeeping, showing others, and proudly wears the whole ensemble (yet often doesn’t need to as he’s so calm they rarely bother him), and together we looked after them in the winter, feeding them sugar and, in the late winter and early spring, organic candy canes (they inhaled them!!), not to mention and I can totally happy now with the voluminous buzzing of the thousands of bees enjoying the smorgasbord that is our garden (when I was a child I was terrified of bees), from the pink poppies to the rosemary and thyme to the bee’s friend flowers we literally grew just for them. I can’t wait to taste a bit of what they make!
And finally, a little baking happened on our one cooler day this week, as I tried a really daring recipe for Beaujolais Chorizo Bread. I know, right – wine and meat in bread? Sounds crazy but the recipe sounded phenomenal! And not reading the directions on chorizo, I mistakenly bought chorizo sausage instead of cured chorizo, so instead of tiny bits of chorizo sprinkled throughout, it basically integrated into the dough, creating these lovely swirls as you can see above. But the bonus? It made the bread SO darn moist, that it is beautifully soft and savory with a teensy bit of spice. Very, very, very good.