Precious Eggs

chick-webAs fall progresses here in southwest Montana our  egg production has reached new lows.   Our flock is the smallest each year at this time.   Chickens ability to lay eggs is directly related to the number of hours of light, aka length of days.       This can often be compounded by a fall molt.

Egg farmers today often light their chicken barns to ensure that they lay regardless of what is happening in nature.  I raise my chickens more naturally and work with what light nature sends my way.  I allow the natural rhythm of the seasons of life to cause my chickens to slow down and even take a break from laying eggs.

Molting is that time when chickens decided that their feathers must be replaced.  For my birds  it  is usually happens during the fall and winter months.   It seems to be one of those things that is counter intuitive to mother nature.    Why would birds naturally lose all their feathers when it is getting colder out??  Who knows but molts traditionally occur in fall and winter.

With a small flock then compound in the shortening days and the loss of feathers eggs become a precious commodity.

Long Nights

This morning the dog starting making noises and I turned over in bed to discover it was after 7!  Now this is unusual for me as I am a morning person, and by 7 I am often already at my desk and got at least an hour under my belt.   Not this year!

I not sure why, but this year my body wants to sleep until the sun comes up.   Last year a friend blogged about her body wanting to hibernate each fall.     It was a fun read, but I could not get my head around it.    Suddenly this is happening to me.   My body no longer wants to keep its circadian rhythm.  If it doesn’t get light outside until after 7 it is staying deep sleep. Mind you we have a dark bedroom so there are no hints in our little sleeping den about what is going on in the outer world.

I am not sure what is going on, but I am hoping my body wills soon return to normal or I may have to get out that alarm clock.

Apples and Fall

When we lived in Minnesota, this was the time of the year that we would head from the city down to the country of apple orchards near Red Wing and Lake Peppin.   There you could find all sorts of apple varieties and it would be the time of year that we canned, dried and made lots of desserts with apples.   With my bag of apples that I got two weeks ago I have been using some in tried and true receipes and looking for a new one to use as well.

Here is a new one that we are going to save as part of our permanent collection.   I found it on the blog Hungry Rabbit NYC.  Of course I made a few changes to suit what I had in my cupboard and my taste.  I highly recommend it to you.

Caramelized Apple Gingerbread

recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, with additional adaptations by Hungry Rabbit NYC, and now a few by me!
yield: 9 servings
INGREDIENTS

Apple Topping
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup  dark brown sugar
2 apples medium, peeled, halved, cored, and sliced thin

Gingerbread
2-1/4 cups  all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, I use Penzey’s Cinnamon because it has a great mix of four different types of cinnamon.
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon Dutch-process coco powder
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter , melted, cooled to room temperature
4 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup unsulphured molasses
3/4 cup (5-1/4 ounces) granulated white sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
2 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated ( I use ginger in the tube from Gourmet Garden.   Find it in your grocer’s produce section.)
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cup of Sun-maid Fruit Bits (It contains diced raisins, apricots, apples, and more)
1/2 chopped crystalized ginger (You want this to be moist, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces and tossed in sugar.  I like Penzey’s it is perfect out of the bag)

DIRECTIONS

Apple Topping
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter in a glass 9 by 9-inch baking pan. Use your fingers and spread melted butter into pan and on sides; add brown sugar, stir with fork to moisten in butter and spread brown sugar evenly over pan bottom. Arrange apple slices, overlapping slightly upon brown sugar mixture. Set aside

Gingerbread
1. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and cocoa in medium bowl. Set aside

2. Beat butter, oil, molasses, and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Beat in egg and fresh ginger until incorporated. Gradually add buttermilk until combined.

3. Add dry ingredients to liquid; beat on medium speed until batter barely combines with a few white streaks of flour. Using a rubber spatula, add dried fruits and ginger until evenly distributed. Pour batter over apple slices.

4. Bake until top springs back when lightly touched, and edges have pulled away from the pan sides, 45-55 minutes. At 6,000 feet it cooked it for 65 minutes and we used the toothpick test, as the edges never pulled from the sides.  Set pan on wire cake rack and let cool for 15 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges and  invert onto serving plate, and let cool for another 30 minutes. Cut into squares, and serve.  Be decadent add some sweetened whipped cream.

Rush, Rush, Rush

 

John painting house trim.

 

When nice weather arrives in Montana we all rush out and start doing all those things we postpone during the winter.

Starting in spring and all summer long we fill the long days with as many  fun activities as we can fit in. BBQ with friends.  We spend time hiking, walking and running.    We pick another ghost town or two from the book and get out and visit it to poke around.   That alpine visa with wildflowers calls our name.   If you are a horse person, that horse is fat and sassy and a good mountain ride is good for both of you.   Fly fishing is calling you and you listen and head out with your pole.    We sit on the deck and watch the beautiful sunsets.  We lay out on the hammock and watch the stars above.   The list is endless and keeps us going all summer.

Now it is fall and that honey do list looks awful long and the nice days are short.   Now is the time that we rush, rush, rush to get as many done as possible before the snow arrives for good.   We still have a little painting to get done on the house, cheatgrass to spray before there is snow cover and our list goes on an on.

I hope all of us remember to not spend every minute but to also enjoy the days of fall as well.

Labor Day Weekend

Labor day is the holiday that is often thought of as the final weekend of the summer. I am not sure why that is so as the autumnal equinox won’t happen for another 3 weeks.  So many of us look forward to summer, why do we want to let go of it before we must?

Many kids have just returned to school or will Tuesday right after Labor day.   Maybe the fact that they are no longer on school break is why we think summer is over.

There will be no more 3 day weekends where we can enjoy a camping trip or an afternoon  picnic. The fact that this the last of the three major summer holidays may be  why we think is not only the last holiday, but also the beginning of fall.

All I can say is enjoy Labor Day weekend,  it is one of the last of the summer, but the not the last!

Frost Warning

Well tonight is the first frost warning of the season.  The Midwest girl in me just insists that August isn’t time for the end of  summer, and I am not going to call it quits.  My flowers are just coming into their own and some are just getting ready to bloom for the first time. I have not yet got one ripe tomato off my plants and they are full of many possibilities. So I got tarps out  for my flower gardens, covered my tomato pots with garbage bags, and thrown towels over my deck planters.  I ran a little short on tarps so I have a few feet of my flower wall that is going to risk the elements.   It looks a little trashy but for the night it is worth it to keep the summer going a little longer.  Keep your fingers crossed that this clear high altitude night doesn’t get as cool as predicted.

Fall Fever

Last night it was in the 30’s here.   That in Montana language means fall is not far away, and I have been bitten by the fall fever bug.

Fall fever is worse than spring fever.  With spring fever we all anticipate what will come.  The days are getting longer and warmer.    Fall fever is different in that you have been given a warning that the number of  days are limited before winter sets in.    The hours of daylight are already getting shorter.    Warm coatless days are doing their swan song.  We start to see a few more days with overcast and showers.

Once we realize fall is just around the corner  we beginning to think about those things on our summer good-weather to-do list that never got done.   It is the start of the big push time.  Rush to get this done and that done before winter sets in.   When fall fever sets in we start to drop things from our chore list knowing that this is not the year it will get done and that it will have to wait one more year.   Fall is the time we realize we didn’t take the hike to that breathtaking summer mountain lake and drop in a fishing line.  We are disappointed we didn’t picnic or get out and hike more more.  Fall is the time when we ask ourselves where has another year gone?

Once bitten by fall fever I have a tough time staying in the office.   I look outside and see the warm sunny day and know those days  are limited.   I have the overwhelming desire to get outside and take a little hike or read a book in the hammock.  I can’t succumb to that urge to head outside every time fall fever urges hit, but I will allow myself to do so as much as I can.  Fall is a good time to store up good memories to take us through the long cold winters of Montana.