I hope I never lose my sense of wonder. If that makes me naive, then so be it.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

serendipity is sour but tasty

- noun. - The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident.

The farm has been busy, birds (136 in all, right now) growing and laying eggs and all that sort of thing. The summer has been such a contrast to last year's drought, and the garden with almost no help from me is lush and productive. Which includes the weeds, but that's part of the job.

Yesterday on going out with the girls for a couple of errands, I glanced at a shrub-tree thing that grows at the front edge of one of our fields. We pass it almost every time we head out. I've never paid it much attention, really, but yesterday a flash of red on it caught my eye. I hit the brakes, backed up, and stared at it. 

Crabapples. It was absolutely covered. How did I miss this, all this time? All these years? Beautiful little red apples all over the until-now-ignored tree. I decided to come out later and harvest them. 

So this morning, puppy and I headed out to the road and I started picking. And picking. And picking. And straddling the electric fence line that keeps the cows in. That I managed to not get zapped was no small feat, but I am covered in scratches from the branches as I weasled my way in to reach all I could.

I picked them by the handful. By the double-handful. They were perfectly ripe, and have a perfect flavour - tart but tasty. 

As I picked I thought about how lovely it is that so much can happen without any of my intervention (interference?). Sometimes, I think I just get in the way. And this little tree did its work, likely helped by the local bees, and gave us a bounty that we had no part in making. Some of life's simple blessings are these unlooked-for surprises. 

I bet the cows knew all about it all along and didn't tell me, wanting to keep the secret to themselves.

A half hour sufficed to fill the washtub with all the apples I could reach. 

I had plans for today. But serendipity sometimes means tossing all that, being thankful for the discovery, picking the apples you find, and making some jelly.

Friday, 9 August 2013

miscellany: beef tongue

Yes, really. 

Soooo... yeah. Here goes.
I love classic literature and it seems that without fail, when the genteel folk had a picnic or cold lunch (oops, luncheon), one of the items on the list is cold tongue, or jellied tongue, or tongue sandwiches. Which sounded weird. I've never eaten, let alone cooked, one.
This is pretty much my face throughout.

This will go down as the first time I've spent a cooking exercise at least mildly repulsed by what I was working with. My general reaction throughout is summed up as, "ew". So eloquent.

So it starts with, yup. A tongue. A big, greyish-pink, flabby tongue that the farmer we buy our beef from tells me is worth more per pound in Europe than the rest of the cuts of beef. Interesting. Oddly enough, she included the tongue for no extra charge with the rest of the large order of beef I was picking up. Hmm, wonder why?


While I taste it, can it taste me?

IT HAS TASTE BUDS. I can't get past the tongue-ish-ness of this thing. I had read to scrub it and then soak it for a few hours, changing the cold water frequently. The whole time I scrubbed, feeling the rough taste buds, I thought... you guessed it. Ew. 

It did not help matters that while it soaked, the cows who spend the summer here got out. While they stood looking at me before they got shooed back into the pasture, one put out her tongue and then STUCK IT UP HER NOSE. Yup, cleaned her nose with it. Did I mention ew?

The onions look good. 
After soaking, it went into the pot with fresh water, peppercorns, bay leaves, and onion, to simmer gently for several hours. It can't be cooked fast as it would basically end up like a tire. So it simmered away, smelling pretty good actually, but still looking like several kinds of nasty.

Titus: "NOM NOM NOM!"
Once it finished, I was supposed to peel off the outer layer. Oh, good, I thought, that will take off the taste buds and it will be less like what it is. But just removing the outer layer of the whitish tongue left me with... a greyish-brown tongue. Ugh. 

At least Titus was enjoying the process, and loved every little bit he got.

I'm still not convinced.

But, I'm happy to report, once I cut down through the next layer, it looked more like a pork tenderloin (wishful thinking? Perhaps). Hooray! A piece of meat I've dealt with. Into the fridge it went to chill.

Today for lunch: cold tongue sandwiches. Thinly sliced tongue on dark rye bread with yellow and grainy dijon mustard. And...

But... yeah, it tasted pretty good!

It was pretty good, actually. It tastes like, well, beef. The texture is the oddest thing about it (once you're past the IT'S A TONGUE thing. Which I am not past yet, for the record) as it tastes like roast beef but is much, much more tender than any cold roast beef I've ever had.

It's still kind of weird.

Friday, 2 August 2013

help wanted, sort of

There is no end of things to do here. Literally. Our dream for this place is so easily expressed: "bring the farm back to life", yet there is so much in there that changes, and adapts, then changes some more, only to find that there's more to do.

Regular maintenance eats up a great deal of time. Housework? I try to keep up with that in summer, but outside is constantly clamouring for attention. The hens. The ducks. The garden. The meat birds. Oh, and the cows just escaped. And was that a fox we just saw? Check the hens again. Why isn't the tractor working? Top up the chicks' water. The roof is blowing off the back of that barn we never use. The ducks need more pool water. The beans are ready to harvest and the potatoes need hilling.

I saw a quote about farming that it wasn't a matter of what you had to do that was your priority, it was what you had to do NOW versus what could wait until tomorrow. The tyranny of the immediate calls. I can plan to do things, which pretty much guarantees that something will change and throw the schedule to the wind. During all of this, D works. Full-time and (some weeks) then some. Much that needs doing can't be addressed as quickly as we'd like.

So, I decided, we need a handyman. "We need to hire someone who could do all those maintenance and fixup things around here," I suggested to D as he and I worked to build the mobile chicken coop for the pasture.

"That'd be great, except we can't pay anyone."

"I know. Which is why we'd need to hire someone certifiable: they would work for room and board, that's all."

"But there's no place for them to live."

"In the chicken coop."

"The chicken coop? Yeah," he said with a laugh, "I don't see that going over too well."

"Ah, but it's all in the spin."

"The spin?"

"Yup. Here's how the ad goes: 

Wanted, handyman to work on farm. 
Gourmet meals provided. 
Accommodation in separate dwelling 
to be shared with 30 single females."

I figure we shall be deluged with applications.