Thursday, October 1, 2015

Chuckles From the Chicken Coop - Sexed?

When we purchased our 8 pullets to get back in the chicken business (really the family egg business) this year, we paid extra to ensure they were "sexed" - poked and prodded or whatever they do to determine chicken gender.  Pullets should be all laying hens, as in no boys allowed.

Imagine our surprise when one of the "girls" grew a comb, wattles, upright tail feathers, and grew faster and larger than the others, and then, of course, began to crow.  Oops.  Well, now we have a rooster.  He's friendly so far and seems protective - he is the first one out of the coop and he stands guard while the ladies eat.

We lost one chick soon after we moved them from the safety of the indoor holding area to the outdoor fully enclosed chicken coop with attached yard.  Snakes will find their way into anything and sure enough, a young chicken was constricted and eaten up to its "shoulders" at which point Jake the snake realized he could not consume the broader part of a young chicken.  This, with the gender identity issue, put us at 6 laying hens, just about enough to keep us in fresh eggs.

Their favorite garden surplus item so far?  Cantaloupe!

Monday, September 28, 2015

School Daze - VA Farm to School Week

This year, Virginia's Farm to School Week will now be celebrated the first full week of October.  This is a significant change from the third week in November, as in years past, when produce was more difficult to source, it being after the first freeze in our region.

Late summer crops, such as melons, tomatoes, and peppers are still holding on and fall crops are just coming to harvest.  In our schools, we will enjoy butternut squash and sweet potatoes, with cabbage following later in the month. Virginia grown apples are well known in the fall, with our beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley a haven for apple trees and fall foliage.

In my home garden, I am still harvesting peppers, green beans, and cantaloupe.  Temps have cooled enough that lettuce is ready, while collards and kale are taking off. I'm eager to see if my volunteer tomatoes can offer something before the frost settles in.

Birds, bad soil, inconsistent water or something prevented my broccoli and Brussels sprouts seeds from germinating.  I will miss those crops this year.  Broccoli casserole, with tender home grown broccoli, at Thanksgiving was becoming a family favorite.

At school, we will steam, mash and season the squash and rough chop and roast the potatoes.  Free samples, colorful educational signage and harvest d├ęcor will tempt the students to give it a try. As my dad used to say, "Try it, you'll like it!"

Showing students of all ages the many links between garden and nutrition, farm and flavor, plant and plate, color and carotene, local and sustainable, is well worth it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Why Am I A Preceptor?

For the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, April is National Preceptor Month.  As a Preceptor of dietetic interns and a Guest Blogger, I contributed this piece to Food and Nutrition Magazine here.

There is a shortage of internship slots for dietitians in training and a recent news article predicted the demand for dietitians to increase, calling it one of the hot jobs for the near future.  Sounds like a perfect storm.

Consider contributing to the future of your profession.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The More Things Change

I was reading a biography about Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts.  During World War I, the idea was that "food will win the war" and that if families grew and conserved their own food, more would be available to send overseas to soldiers.

Housewives pledged to:
  • use all leftovers
  • adhere to voluntary rationing plans such as wheatless Mondays and porkless Saturdays
  • plant a kitchen garden
  • preserve their garden's excess
These remind me of current initiatives to reduce, reuse, recycle, meatless Mondays, and the resurgence of home gardening and backyard farming.  Canning is also making a comeback.

As part of the war effort, Girl Scouts pledged to "give up candy and soda water".  Perhaps the children of today need a more noble cause to help them make better food and beverage choices.  If not for themselves, then whom?

Juliette Gordon Low-The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts, Stacy Cordery, 2012

Monday, April 20, 2015

Chuckles From the Chicken Coop-Back in Business

We are back in business! Day 1:

Eight little Rhode Island Red chicks are growing in our temperate basement, awaiting transfer to the coop. Here is their home for the next few weeks:

They already have some wing feathers. They have the sweetest little chirping sounds and they hush and listen attentively when I give them my, "Chick, chick!"  This is how I call to them when I approach the chicken coop or gather them after free ranging. Train them up in the way of the farm and they will not wander.

It's been awhile since we have had farm fresh eggs - and yes, there is a difference.  The taste is richer and there is pride in having raised them ourselves. A tree fell on our outdoor chicken yard that is attached to the coop.  At the time, a predator had recently taken our last chicken, so we waited till spring to rebuild.  Pictures soon! 

I look forward to fresh eggs just a short walk from the kitchen, a place to throw my fruit and veggie scraps, chicken manure blended with pine shavings from the coop as mulch and fertilizer for my gardens, and the antics of "my girls."

Sunday, April 12, 2015

What's In My Garden Now? Gimme Five

The first flower on the strawberry plants.  Straight lines of radish, lettuce and spinach seedlings.  Beet tops emerging from the soil. Tendrils of snow pea vines, reaching for the lattice support.  New potato leaves, popping out of their mounds.  #GimmeFive  Oh, and weeds.

Early spring is a such a wonderful time to visit the garden.  Each day, something new appears. I look forward to a visit each day after work.

Clearing out the weeds in the raised beds is hard work (I really need to try a cover crop or black plastic sheeting), but seeing the weed-free, dark rich soil ready for planting is gratifying.  Cucumber starts (from seeds prepped in the greenhouse) went in today.  I place a black one gallon pot with the bottom cut out around each seedling to protect it from wind, rabbits, and to absorb and provide extra heat for the tender starts. I'll remove the pots before the cucumber vines extend past them.

Five in the garden will soon be five on our plates.  Plant now for good nutrition later!

Friday, March 20, 2015

School Meals are Community Meals

At a recent community event, we hosted a free sampling of foods and beverages.  Students, parents, staff, community members, school board and administration attended to take a look, and have a taste, of current and potential school menu items.  Coverage in the local paper about Food Festival 2015 helped share our story. 

School meals really are community meals.  Parents want to know what choices their students have.  School leadership and community members want to know resources are being used wisely.  Students want to see what is new and exciting.  Buy-in from all these stakeholders is essential to success.

We received over 200 taste test forms, some with valuable written comments.  Some menu items will move forward and work their way on to the menu next school year.  Others, will be tweaked and retested.  Some will go the way of plate waste studies.

Key take-aways:
  • Leverage an existing school event, where parents and community members are already attending for some other reason.
  • Free food always brings a crowd.
  • Add some nutrition education to the mix, with product cards highlighting the nutritional merits of each item.
  • Provide recipes for items made from scratch, so families can try it at home.
  • Have plenty of staff on hand to answer questions.
Create excitement in your community about the school meal program.  Help members understand regulatory, food cost and other challenges.  Show adults how much things have changed since they were in school. 

Best comment card response:  "It makes me want to go back to school!"

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Chef's Kitchen

When in Williamsburg, VA, you must visit A Chef's Kitchen.  We recently enjoyed another visit there and were again rewarded.  The Chef, with an impressive resume, was inspired by the success of early cooking shows, and launched this business.  It is a cooking class, gourmet meal, wine tasting and dining experience all wrapped up in one.  Best of all (hard to choose that!) is the small, intimate atmosphere where you really feel like you are part of the "show". 

Starting with champagne and appetizers, on to a soup and salad, a seafood course, entrees of beef tenderloin and truffle stuffed quail (currently) and finally dessert, with wine pairings throughout, you leave completely satisfied.  All of this is prepared right in front of you, recipes are provided and shopping and cooking tips are offered throughout.  I say "currently" as the menu changes monthly.

Wines, both red and white, are international and are offered for sale at under $10 a bottle.  That's right, professionally sourced wines at under $10 a bottle.

Check out the reviews on Trip Advisor - it's a top destination in Williamsburg.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hot Topics-Winter Reading List

I didn't quite get through Food Tank's Fall Reading List and here we have their Winter Reading List.  It's a great time of year for reading however-too cold to garden, comforting to curl up with a quilt and a book, and reading is very budget friendly, as all those holiday bills are arriving.

Food Tank offers provocative recommended reads for foodies, farmers, and fact seekers-similar to the mission of this blog.  Beyond cookbooks, there is also history and motivation.  There are soul satisfying suggestions.

Next to my comfy chair is Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  No, I don't intend to try many of the recipes, but I read cookbooks for inspiration and ideas.  Her attention to detail in explaining things is both basic and overwhelming at the same time.  But I do love to read and write about food.

I also picked up An Omelette and a Glass of Wine by Elizabeth David at a thrift shop, reading about the French countryside, markets, and recipes.  It was like a mini trip to France each time I sat down to read.

Check the reading list for a topic of interest to you or for a new,unknown topic which might become of interest to you.  Be enriched.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

WHOLE-istic Eating-It Starts in the Grocery Store

Shop smart, eat smart.  If you don't buy it, you won't eat it.  Parents decide what to eat, kids decide how much to eat.  Healthy cart, healthy heart.  All these expressions point to the basic advice that healthy or whole-istic eating as the author calls it, starts with buying healthy, whole foods.

Read more here.  This Health Journal article contains great advice to stay on track with those resolutions you made just a few weeks ago.