“Self-pity is the hens’ besetting sin,” remarked Mr. Payton. “Foolish fowl. How they came to achieve anything as perfect as the egg I do not know! I cannot fathom.”
― Elizabeth Enright, Gone-Away Lake
Any of you who have been in our CSA before know….we love our chickens. I never imagined I would be so fond of fowl. Honestly, I never cared about feeding the birds, never had an affinity for ducks, geese, wild birds, anything. But, about the second year of our CSA I decided it would be nice for customers to have the option of fresh eggs. So, we dove in. Curtis built our first chicken house and we got about 20 hens. The rest is history. We are up to 120 hens and 4 houses. AND, it has given me more of an appreciation for other birds. I never knew a bird could have so much personality until we kept chickens (I thought about this as I was battling with a barn swallow who wanted to build a nest in my vegetable wash area…stubborn little birds).
All of this to precede my FARM NEWS for this week. There was a snake in the chicken house (seems we can’t get away from the snakes this year). Curtis went to close up the hens one night, he came back immediately and said – there’s a snake in the chicken house and I can’t tell what kind it is – will you come look at it. So, by the light of the flashlight, I peer into the chicken house. For those of you who don’t know, chickens roost at night. They don’t see very well in the dark, so they perch on roosts we build for them in the rafters of their house. They are able to fly up to them – and they are about eye level for us. SO, this snake has crawled down from the TOP of the chicken house. He is hanging off one of the ceiling boards and is draped over one of our chickens backs. It was creepy.
HOWEVER, I had noticed recently that we have not had many mice (a nice way of saying rats) in our chicken houses. Rodents love to build in and around anything that eats grain. In our feed room and chicken houses we have a constant problem. So, lately, no torn feed sacks. No scurrying around at night when we close chickens up. And so I develop a new appreciation for this snake draped over our hens back immediately. “Looks like a King snake to me”, I say (which it does). The hen reaches back and pecks at him, absentmindedly. “Let’s leave him alone” I say.
So I ask my neighbor, who is my chicken (and everything else) go to person, “will this snake eat our eggs?” He says, “yes, but if you can spare them, it would be worth keeping him around”. We are not short on eggs yet – so we’ll see what happens.
What’s in the bucket? I KNOW YOU ARE TIRED OF GREENS… but, they are still in season. Curly kale, fresh garlic, turnips (roots and greens), baby carrots, kohlrabi, radishes, new potatoes, bibb lettuce, raddichio.
I love to roast root veggies. Just cut those turnips, new potatoes and kohlrabi (I would peel it) into similar sized chunks. Pop the green tops off the baby carrots and throw them in whole. Toss in olive oil and cracked pepper and roast until tender. You can add fresh herbs or onions, but do it towards the end lest they burn. Temp doesn’t really matter – 375 to 450 – just takes longer at a lower temp.
I found a new kale salad recipe the other night. The curly kale is perfect for a raw salad or slaw (also great cooked). The dressing was labor intensive, but made enough to save for another night.
- 4 tablespoons fresh juice and 1 tablespoon zest from 2 to 3 lemons
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 small clove garlic, minced (about 1/2 teaspoon)
- 1 anchovy filet, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 2 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano, grated on a microplane grater (about 2 cups)
- 3/4 cup neutral oil (such as safflower or canola)
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups finely cubed sourdough bread
- 12 ounces kale leaves, large stems removed, sliced into thin ribbons
- 1 serrano chili, thinly sliced
- Combine lemon juice and zest, vinegar, garlic, anchovy, mustard, egg yolk, chili flakes, and cheese in the bowl of a food processor. Process until homogenous, about 10 seconds. With processor running, slowly drizzle neutral oil through feed tube, stopping the processor to scrape down sides as necessary until a smooth emulsion is formed, about 20 seconds.
- Transfer to a medium bowl. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup olive oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Heat remaining two tablespoons olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add bread cubes and cook, tossing and stirring constantly until golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and season with salt and pepper.
- To serve, combine kale in a large bowl with about 1/2 cup dressing (more or less as desired). Toss to coat well and let sit around 3 minutes. Transfer to a large serving bowl and top with croutons and sliced chilies. Serve immediately.