Archive | April, 2011


30 Apr

The Bobolinks have returned!  They were singing in the hedgerow trees this morning. They are one of my very favorite birds.  They seem so cheerful and happy they make me so to hear them.

The bumblebees are awake and working.

Next to the Bobolink was a yellow warbler of some sort.  A Yellow Warbler?  A  Pine Warbler? A Prairie Warbler?  It was high up and in the sunlight was bright yellow.

The woodpeckers are out making noise all around.  They look very elegant in their black and white outfits, as if they are on their way to a formal function, or just returning from a night out–the plumage of some individuals is rather scruffy looking.  But still elegant, like a disreputable but charming uncle.

The other day I saw crows ganging up on a raven. There was also one hanging about last fall.  Up back in the silence of the fields and woods, the raven’s loud, raucous, repeated ‘gawk’ is intimidating and rather unnerving. Sort of ominous.  I was silently urging the crows on as they cawed and darted and flew, pecking, at the larger bird.  Was the raven raiding their nests?  If I could find a young raven still in its nest, I would raid that nest and make it a pet.

The bluebirds have yet to start a nest in one of the boxes, and I fear the swallows will beat them to it.  They are still singing in the crabapple most mornings, though.  Our neighbors report the white-breasted nuthatches have taken up residence in the box just off their patio.

Jay is now in the midst of starling killing season. He got one which was trying to nest in the garage this morning and another which had already made a nest in the church this afternoon.  He has also moved the squirrel nest box to a locale more felicitous for shooting since they are trying to establish a nest in it as well.

Tomorrow morning he hopes to go out and at least see a turkey since the season begins May first.

Wedding and other treats

29 Apr

A handful of us went to Ellie’s this morning to watch The Wedding via BBC.  Whilst we watched we had tea, cranberry sparkling water with orange juice, Elli’s almost famous ambrosia, an apple coffee cake, scones with Devonshire cream, jam, and raspberries, and baked french toast.

The scone recipe is adapted from Bernard Clayton’s bread book. It did come from a Mrs. MacNab, of Scotland.  Notice it has no sugar.  The currants are sweet enough.

Mrs. MacNab’s Scones

2 cups flour, approximately

1 teaspoon each salt and baking soda

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

3 Tablespoons butter, room temperature

1 egg, room temperature, slightly beaten

1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature

1/2 cup currants or more

Oven: 375 Degrees F

Rub the butter into the mixed dry ingredients.  Add the egg and buttermilk and currants.  Stir, then turn out on a lightly floured board.  There was excess flour in my batch so I just used what there was.  Knead lightly a few times.  Divide dough into 4 portions.  Shape each into an approximate 6″ circle about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut into quarters and place on baking sheet.  Cook about 15 minutes.


When we arrived home (Isaac went with me) I tried the yogurt I made yesterday afternoon.  Here is what I did to make the yogurt.

Put 7 cups whole milk in a stainless steel saucepan.  This milk containing pan went into a slightly larger saucepan with some water.  Heated the milk to about 185 degrees F and held it there about 30 minutes.  Something online said it would make the yogurt thicker. (By evaporating some water off, perhaps?)

Removed from water bath and heat.  Poured in 1 cup cold ultra-pasteurized half and half, then placed saucepan in a cold water bath and stirred.  The temperature dropped to below 110 degrees F much more quickly than I anticipated. 110 is the temp to inoculate the milk with culture.

Stirred and whisked in about 1.5 T. yogurt from two different kinds: Chobani and Liberte.

Turned oven on the lowest temp setting it goes to: 170 Deg F.  Poured yoogurt solution into my grandmother’s heavy red ceramic bowl, covered with plastic wrap, stuck thermometer in.  Turned off oven after a few minutes and took the bowl in and out of the oven over the course of a half hour, trying to get the milk up to about 100-110 degrees.  Then left it in the oven overnight.  The thermometer still read about 80 F this morning.  Moved the bowl to the fridge before leaving at %.30 this AM.  The yogurt is delicious and not at all tangy.  Mild and wonderful.  I put a bit of honey on a small bowlful when I got home.

Weather Change

28 Apr

The red hellebore is now fully open.  Along with lots of other plants, trees and shrubs.  The past two days the temperature has been 40 degrees higher than it had been.  And we have had lots of rain.  Last night at least four large thunder and lightening storms came through.  Over an inch of rain fell.

Plants are acting as if they are late for their scene on stage, rushing out and bursting into bloom.  They are late for their part, but it is not their fault.  The pacing of the weather has been quite slow here. But now,  the fruit trees will bloom any day if this weather keeps on.  The peas are up.

The influence of altitude and microclimes has been easy to see this year.  We were a couple weeks behind until the hot weather arrived Tuesday.  Down in town the forsythia, daffodils, magnolias were out.  Up here–small blooming bulbs and the hellebores.  No daffodils.  No forsythia.  No hyacinth.  Only the earliest white violets.

Now, except for the wetness, the blooms are “on time”.


26 Apr

This hellebore is open this year.  So pretty.

Easter Eggs to Break

26 Apr

Following directions (sort of) found online, I removed about a one-inch circle from the bottom of some eggs, emptied, washed, and boiled the shells in slightly acidic water for about 15 minutes, then dyed them in blue vegetable dye.

Let them dry hanging from bamboo skewers, stuffed them with little treats, put glue around the hole and stuck directions and a small candy paper to the bottom.

Dried Siberian Iris leaves served nicely as ‘grass’ for the baskets this year.


26 Apr

Up at the farm, where the soil is some of the best in the state, the violets are particularly luscious.  And come in many different colors.

Surf and Turf

16 Apr

Last night after supper Jay and I went fishing.  We caught ten little brown trouts that had been released earlier that day.  Four went into a bucket of water and were transferred to the neighbor’s pond.  The other six went into the fridge.

Jay estimated each weighs about 6 oz.  So there is about 3.5 pounds of trout.

There were eight of us who worked five plus hours each this morning and into the afternoon cutting up the steer. The four men were in the barn, in the cold, cutting and grinding. The women were in the house, weighing, bagging, and labeling. And making lunch and coffee.

M’s father fed the cattle while they were away, and he liked having them look forward to his coming each day.  So he overfed them.  By quite a bit.  In my opinion, the meat would be graded prime. I had a shoulder steak this evening.  It was so tender and juicy it was difficult to think it was from a typically tough divided muscle.

The three day old calf named Athena, with her fat mama:

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