June 29, 2011

Scrumptious Sorrel Tart

I made this tart for the first time last month, but it's actually been two years in the making.

The idea of using something like sorrel in a tart wasn't even remotely on my radar until I read about it over on Tara's blog (which is a must-read, if you haven't already discovered it) almost two full years ago, and her excitement over this recipe was so infectious that I immediately started making plans for a sorrel patch of my own.

Maybe it was my anemic garden soil, but the seeds I sowed last spring didn't turn into much of anything until this year, so my plans to try making this tart last summer were foiled. I know, I probably could have just gone out and bought some sorrel, but I didn't, hence the two year wait.

Turns out, my sorrel patch is just the right size to provide exactly the amount of leaves required for one full recipe (thankfully, it regrows quickly, and I was able to make another one a few weeks later). I may have to consider expanding it so I can freeze the filling mixture for winter meals.

The resulting tart was incredible, unlike anything I'd ever tasted before. Sorrel itself tastes a bit like lemony spinach with a hint of rhubarb, but the custard does a good job of mellowing that sharpness. Likewise, the brightness of the greens cuts through the richness of the eggs, cheese, and heavy cream, balancing the flavours brilliantly. 

This recipe is worth its weight in gold just for the crust, which was deliciously light and flaky. I followed the recipe to the letter the first time I tried it, but I've since made it using a yellow onion (because I didn't have a red one), and I've also substituted half & half for half of the heavy cream (because that's all I had), and it was still excellent. 

If you're feeling inspired, you can find the recipe here. I certainly hope you'll get to try it before 2013!

June 15, 2011

We Are Family

Our second batch of chicks arrived in the mail early last week, and in preparation, my husband built a cozy little nursery pen inside the coop. We set things up anticipating having to use the heat lamp, but I was still hoping that one of my broody hens would step up to the plate and make that unnecessary.

Shortly after the chicks arrived, we took two peeps out to the coop to see what the hens' reactions would be (we had 5 broodies at the time). Most of them either growled at us to go away, or showed no interest in the chicks at all. Our darling Reepicheep (a Blue Laced Red Wyandotte), however, was intrigued - she even tolerated having them snuggle under her for a minute. We tried moving her into the nursery pen, but she was indignant and desperate to get back on her nest, so we decided to wait until nightfall.

Under the cover of darkness, we snuck into the coop and moved Reep into her new pen. Thankfully, she was more than happy to hunker down onto her new nest (why are chickens so dopey after dark?). Hardly daring to breathe, my daughter and I carried out the box of noisy babies, fully expecting it to throw the coop residents into a frenzy, and started slipping them, one by one, under their new mom. To our delight, she took to it like a pro, clucking happily, and fluffling herself out to accommodate everyone. In the end, she fell asleep with 20 peeping fuzzballs tucked blissfully within her warm feathers. I went in to check on them every two hours throughout the night, just to be sure, but there was no need - our girl had adapted beautifully to becoming a mother literally overnight.

It's interesting watching Reepicheep raise her babies. She's been teaching them how to dust bathe and scratch for treats, and they've even started responding to chicken language (she makes the sound for "oh look, I found something yummy!", which I've only ever heard the rooster make until now, and they all come running).

Her brood seems to love her so much that it's hard to imagine raising chicks with a heat lamp for a mother. They even seem to love horsey rides the way she did as a chick.

The only downside that I can see so far is that this batch of babies is so bonded with their adopted mom that they have no interest in us humans. Every time I go in to check on them, they run away in terror. I'm hoping they'll get over that if I ply them with enough treats.

But really, how can I even dream of competing with this:

For those who are interested, here's a breakdown of the breeds we went with this time (all from McMurray hatchery):
-7 Americanas (one was a freebie)
-4 Cuckoo Marans 
-4 Rose Comb Brown Leghorns (we're down to 3, as one was weak and died not long after arrival)
-2 Blue Cochins (one was a freebie)
-2 Anconas
-1 Silver Laced Wyandotte

Not a bad deal - ordered 18, got 20. All of them are female, except for the Blue Cochins, which are straight run, so their gender will be a surprise. Here's hoping that they aren't both roos!

June 01, 2011

Refurbished Freebies and Integration Questions

I was in the city last week delivering eggs to a friend, when I spotted some weathered but otherwise decent  wicker chairs sitting out by the dumpster. I've been looking for something like this to put on our bedroom deck, so I nabbed them.

In need of a little TLC.

I bought a couple of cans of "Canyon Black" spray paint, and after just a few minutes of work per chair, they were looking good as new. Total cost: about $10. Not bad.

Ready for hosting our evening gin & tonic.

Our latest batch of chicks is arriving early next week, and I've been doing some research on how best to integrate them with the existing flock. Does anyone out there have experience with this, and would you be willing to share your ideas? 

We've got several broody hens at the moment, so I'm contemplating letting the girls raise them instead of keeping them inside in the brooder. I've read that letting hens raise them can make it easier for them to be accepted into the flock, and that the adopted mothers will do a good job of protecting them should problems arise. If I do this, I'm thinking of putting a large dog crate or other shelter into either the run or chicken tractor, and letting them live there until the chicks are old enough to move in with the general population, but worry about the possibility of the bear returning (my husband saw her in the park near our house 2 weeks ago).

If I decide to raise them in the house without the hens, what's the best way to introduce them to the group, and at what age?


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