This week, I went to a u-pick farm for the first time. I guess I have been to a u-pick farm before. I remember going strawberry picking once in Carnation, WA with my elementary school friend, Shannon, and her family when I was in the fourth or fifth grade. But since it has been so long since that experience, it feels like the first time. And like most things in my life, I got really enthusiastic about it and ended up going twice in one week – during the hottest week we’ve had in a long time. Apparently, super hot rays of sun won’t stop me.Â
Do you remember that part in Forrest Gump when the character, Bubba, lists off all the different ways to cook shrimp? Over three or four scenes, he rattles off, “There’s shrimp gumbo, shrimp creole, coconut shrimp, shrimp stew, shrimp salad…” Well, that’s what I was reminded of as I picked four new zucchinis from my garden today. So, in today’s post, I present to you the various ways I have used the bounty of zucchini from my garden this season.
We ate the first three ripe tomatoes the other night with fresh basil from my garden and balsamic vinegar. They were still warm from the sun, I kid you not. It’s amazing how home-grown tomatoes just seem to melt in your mouth. It was worth waiting for them to arrive through those cold and rainy winter and spring months.
Jake and I made a new delicious risotto recipe using zucchini and squash blossoms from the garden. I’ve heard that making risotto can be complicated, but it was actually quite easy. You’ve just got to keep stirring. I think the risotto was even better the next day.
Finally, I pulled this beautiful bunch of carrots up today. I have never grown carrots this large before. I learned that it is a good idea to plant carrots in a deep container so they have lots of room for their roots to grow. It pays off! I’m going to put them to use tonight in a new recipe from Heidi Swanson called Carrot, Dill, & White Bean Salad. I’ve got a pot of white beans simmering on the stove and a loaf of four grain-honey bread in the oven right now to go with it. It feels like an oven in my kitchen at the moment, but it’ll be worth the sweat, I’m sure.
A few weeks ago, something clicked in my gardening-obsessed brain and I started to get chicken-fever. I don’t really know what started it all. It could have been the conversation I had in June with some parents at school that have chickens, which made me curious and secretly envious. It could have been all of the times I had to say,Â ”Nope, I’m not going to get chickens” when asked by visitors to my garden. Or maybe it’s just a natural progression – first a foodie, second a farmer’s market consumer, then an avid kitchen gardener, and finally an urban chicken farmer? Whatever it was, I am officially inspired to have a couple of hens of my own and am now on the quest for as much information as I can gather.Â
2) Building a storage cabinet into the coop is a good idea. Where else am I going to put big bags of feed and bedding? Also, doors in different sections of the coop allow easy access to eggs and other areas for cleaning. The four little doors on the first picture can be opened up, allowing direct access to the little nesting cubbies where the chickens lay their eggs.
3) Chickens like tight, little spaces to lay eggs in. We were talking about the idea of using big country mail boxes for nesting cubbies so I could just open that mailbox door and collect my eggs. Then, Jake joked about engineering a mechanism with a flag on the outside of the mailbox that would let me know when I had eggs. I love it!
4) Chickens need a roosting bar to sleep on. Apparently, they poop a lot while on that bar, so if you put big baking trays or a drawer underneath that bar, you can just pull it out and clean it up really easily. According to the coop owners, they change the bedding anywhere from every 6-8 weeks to once a year. I imagine I’d be in the camp of 6-8 weeks, since I don’t want it to stink out my neighbors. Plus, the bedding and manure will make great nitrogen-rich compost for my garden.