Archive for January, 2010

Coyotes! – Who Knew?

Certainly not I, not really,  even though I did know they were in the Northeast and, if it comes to that, in both of our home neighborhoods. In Maine, there’s a whole pack of ’em in the woodland right across the road. We hear them often on summer nights, yipping and laughing and howling.

Here in the Hudson Valley we don’t hear them nearly as often – or as close – but we do see them from time to time, including just a couple of weeks ago in a field near our friend Ilana the chicken queen‘s  farm.

Eastern coyote (with mangy tail), apparently hunting for voles

And then we saw what looked like coyote tracks while we were out skiing. The post on skunk tracks is a perennial favorite, so I asked Bill if he’d consider doing a guest post guide to reading tracks in the snow.

He did. It’s far more than I bargained for. And so are the quite scary coyotes.

Read More…

Got (Real Deal Organic) Milk? Not Unless You Take Action ASAP!

Now that I’ve got your attention…

The action is speaking out  in support of the new, tougher set of organic standards currently under review and the asap is because the review period is almost over. (There’s a comment form  provided here by the Cornucopia Institute.) If the standards are adopted, consumers are likely to get better, fresher milk and they’re likely to get it from the sort of small and mid sized farms that come to mind when you hear the word “dairy.”

Read More…

Eric’s Pet Plant: Teddy-bear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii)

Building the desert section of Yale’s new greenhouse has been consuming Eric’s every waking hour, so I guess it’s hardly surprising we’re hearing about the plants that will live there. His last column was devoted to a vicious tropical tree fern, and this time he’s palling around with one of the least friendly cacti in existence. Pretty though (if you like that sort of thing).

Cylindropuntia bigelovii is showing its silvery-grey aura, which is much nicer to view than to touch

Read More…

The Fiddlehead Lovers Guide: Finding and Preparing Ostrich Ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris), Deliciously and Safely

One thing I love about plants is the way they tie the world together, stitching continents and time in an ever-changing tapestry of free association. Eric puts up a post on Cyathea cooperi, a tropical tree fern so unfriendly its keepers need hazmat suits to move it, and next thing you know, in comes a question from Louisa about fiddleheads, the delicious baby fronds of the circumboreal ostrich fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris.

This foragers’ favorite doesn’t appear until mid-spring, roughly in synch with the morels, but it’s never too early to get ready for collecting.

Pasta with fiddleheads, morels and garlic chives

Read More…

Beware the Voles! Radicchio’s Toast, but it’s not too late to Protect Trees and Shrubs

One more misery for this week: The valiant radicchio that made it through multiple nights down to 5 and 6 degrees was no match for the hungry voles, voles no doubt obscenely cosy in the warm double tunnel that was protecting the row. Wretched creatures have gobbled every single head.

Notice the nibbled edges on this baby and the large dark hole where a full sized head used to be.

I haven’t had the heart to look at the row  – on the other side of the garden – that I harvested extra carefully and then left covered in hopes of a super-early  spring crop. (Cutting the heads off just slightly above the base often results in regrowth, so if the weather is with you – and the voles aren’t – you get a flush of leaves and sometimes a whole new head as soon as the garden wakes up.)

Complete and utter carnage; somehow the scraps where a healthy root should be cause particular pain.

Too late now for the radicchio, but a good reminder to go out and check the viburnums and plums and

Read More…

Hating Monsanto, Part 2

I was wrong!

Not long ago, I suggested that calling Monsanto “evil” was inaccurate, because Monsanto wasn’t a person capable of moral intention but rather a corporation, with “neither a soul to lose nor a body to kick.”  Not sure everybody got it, but my point was that the people who run Monsanto might or might not be despicable, but the corporation itself had no meaning or purpose except to make money for the people who owned shares in it.

As of this morning, however, thanks to a 5 ( guess which 5) to 4 ruling of the Supreme Court, Monsanto IS a person, no different from you or me (except for being considerably less responsible for its actions). So go ahead, feel free, call it evil to your hearts’ content.

Free and Easy Home Made Chicken Bouillon Cubes

It is a truth well-known that commercial chicken bouillon cubes are useless for making bouillon – or anything else you might want to eventually eat. But the concept itself is great: put a cube in a cup, add boiling water and presto! chicken broth, curer of colds, foundation of soups – I’m thinking good thoughts about egg drop at the moment – and sauces too numerous to contemplate.

That’s why our freezer is always stocked with the homemade version. They aren’t as tiny as the salt bombs but they do squeeze a gallon of broth into a pile of little squares about the size of a yogurt tub (which is a very convenient thing to keep them in.)

The chunk in front is about 1 1/2 cubes' worth. I cut it big to show off what it looks like ( admittedly not much; but that's more or less the whole point). The one in the cup is bulked up by the wrapper.

Read More…

Eric’s Pet Plant – Australian Tree-fern (Cyathea cooperi)

The Tree-fern in its new surroundings seems to be quite happy. There is a smaller one lurking to the left.

Big doings over at Yale’s Marsh Gardens. Our friend Eric is finally about to climb out of the greenhouse construction blues and ascend toward the greenhouse enjoyment oratorio. This week he starts celebrating, giving us the lowdown on tree ferns and inviting us to the grand opening.

Read More…

Orange and Endive Salads – Another Good Thing about Winter

Winter is orange city around here. Quantities of peel get candied. The zest adds flavor to stews, enhances the stuffing of roast fowl, perfumes custards and cheesecakes and lends its zing to pastries from pound cake to gingerbread. Result: the fridge is frequently full of naked oranges needing to be used up.

Orange and Avocado salad, one way to use up the oranges.

Read More…

Hating Monsanto – Do Boycotts Work?

I’ve just read yet another another heartfelt comment  from someone who can’t bear to support Monsanto and therefore will not buy seeds produced by any of the companies under its ever-widening corporate umbrella. Yes, I agree completely. Monsanto is an evil behemoth.* The urge to boycott is understandable.

But I do wonder:

Read More…