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July 12, 2011

Wild Huckleberry Tarts

Red (highbush) huckleberries grow wild in our area, and we're lucky to have an abundance of these bushes on our property and in the neighbouring park.

My daughter went for a sleepover at a friend's house last week, and those crazy girls spent the evening terrorizing the neighbourhood, stripping the shrubs of every last huckleberry like a couple of teenage hooligans.


After a few catastrophic giggling fits that resulted in spilled berries, and some unwelcome sampling by a sneaky dad, the evening's work resulted in just over a cup of these tiny red jewels.


Like any good sleepover, this one extended well into the next day, when I got a call from the girls saying that they'd walked to town (if you can call our handful of shops a "town") and bought some tart shells, and could I please come get them so they could do some baking. Kids these days.


We did a quick Google search to look for a suitable recipe, and finally settled on this one. Since they had so few berries, we halved the filling recipe, adding an extra tablespoon or so of sugar as red huckleberries tend to be more tart than the blue, lowbush variety.


The resulting tarts were positively scrumptious, especially topped with a dollop of whipped cream, and were the perfect ending to that evening's dinner on the beach.

Sometimes I wish summer could go on forever.

July 08, 2011

Five Weeks Old.

Just a quick update on the babies before signing off for weekend activities. 

When the chicks were a couple of weeks old, I moved their "nursery pen", which is inside the coop, in front of the door to the chicken tractor, creating a larger area for them to explore, and giving them access to the outdoors (but still keeping them separate from the big girls). 


They're loving being outside where they can sun and dust bathe, and chase bugs, and they quickly learned to respond to the rooster's alarm call, and will dash inside at the first sign of trouble (with Reepicheep standing guard at the door). I think they're going to be a lot more predator savvy than our first batch was in the beginning.

Now that they're five weeks old, they are starting to look more like their future adult selves, and this week we had a revelation about what breeds we actually have. It turns out that one of the girls we thought was a bonus Americana is actually our Silver Laced Wyandotte, and the one that we thought was the Wyandotte is actually a third (bonus) Ancona, and judging by the size of its comb, it's a boy. We still can't tell whether our Cochins (which were straight run, not sexed) are male or female yet, so I'm a little worried that we could end up having three extra roos on our hands, but I'm actually quite excited about having an Ancona male. Aside from being absolutely gorgeous, they're alert and vigilant watchdogs, and could prove to be an excellent choice for breeding should we decide to go that route next time (Anconas are prolific egg layers, unlike Faverolles and Cochins, who we chose for their charm and good looks).

I'm hoping to try introducing them to the older flock in the near future, fingers crossed that they'll be accepted with open arms/wings.

Have a great weekend!

July 06, 2011

The Case of the Missing Berries: A Garden Caper

After threatening to rip out my strawberry patch last year due to lackluster production, I think I've finally figured out the key to getting a good crop. Despite having 60+ strawberry plants, I never seemed to get more than a handful or two at a time, barely enough for a nice dessert, let alone extra for freezing or strawberry jam


This spring, the plants were absolutely covered in blossoms, and I made a point of giving them a dose of fish fertilizer early on to give them a little extra "oomph". Things were looking good, and I had my eye on a large berry that was promising to be the first ripe one of the season, but when I excitedly went out to pick it one morning, it was nowhere to be seen! This continued for a week or so before I realized that I had a blatant act of thievery on my hands. Being a veteran chicky mama, I'm wise to the ways of my feathered friends, and can spot an avian bandit when I see one. Why hadn't I noticed that the robins were looking fat and slow as they hopped (lumbered) so innocently around my yard? They'd been gorging themselves for weeks, and were becoming so spoiled by the abundance that they would take a single bite out of multiple berries, the wasteful little punks.

Thankfully the solution was pretty simple. I covered the row (fairly loosely, so the bees can still get underneath at the ends) with floating row cover, and just remove it every couple of days to harvest what's ripe, leaving it off for several hours so the bees can access them more easily. Now I'm harvesting 1 - 1 1/2 pounds every couple of days; I've even started freezing some!

I really I shouldn't be so pleased about outsmarting these crooks, but I am.

Birdbrains.

July 01, 2011

Chillin'

It's Canada Day in these parts. If you need me, I'll be (weatherman willing) outside catching some rays.


 Happy long weekend!

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