Sunday, August 21, 2011

TUF Grill Worship

there has been much hubbub around the Totally Urban Farm as the lazy summer transitions into school time again.  a big part of the TUFsperiment is learning to consume compassionately on the budget and time schedule of a 'normal' sort of person, whatever that means, so here we go!  back to 'normal!' (i certainly use that term loosely.)

i am excited to start a new gig teaching science at a nearby middle school.  the people i've met and the vibe of the school already tell me that this is exactly what i'm supposed to be doing--i am sure that this new career beginning will support and enhance the TUFness i am trying to develop.

TUF cookery has seen the oven off for months now. (with one exception: one saturday recently had a balmy high temperature of less than 100 degrees, so that evening i went crazy and baked carrot cupcakes, as described at the end of this previous blither.) anyway, this means that the grill is seeing more and more action, and we are getting wilder with our grillsperiments.  it helps to have a partner-in-food who has a preternatural sense of grillism.

i had a fantasy of flat slices of broccoli delicately grilled alongside sweet al-dente carrots. dan made a fantastic attempt, but broccoli anatomy makes flat slices a bit difficult.  however, he did manage to make a delightfully colorful grill surface cover!  it got even better when he slapped on the tasty (wild, line-caught=eco friendly) trout.

the broccoli and carrots went on first for about 25 minutes (covered), and then got shoved over to make room for the trout, which took about 5 minutes a side--skin side up first, of course!  the vegetables could have stayed on a tiny bit longer, but were absolutely delicious as-was.  in fact, the flavor and texture of grilled broccoli represents everything i like about broccoli tempura, but without the guilt-inducing fried-ness and occasionally undercooked intra-broccoli batter!  and cooked carrots are dear in any form, if you ask me.  the trout itself was spectacular.  and those are amy's kitchen organic shells n' cheez.

i've discussed grilled pork before, which, with good (free-range! local!) pork and a light seasoning touch, is one of the best things a carnivore can put in his or her mouth.  i've also discussed grilled purple cabbage and fingerling potatoes.  this time we tried quarters of green cabbage, sprinkled with salt and tarragon, gently doused with apple cider vinegar and olive oil and wrapped up in a foil package.  we also grilled the potatoes in a foil-covered round pan this time, studded with whole garlic cloves and graced with olive oil.
the grill-master also soaked the potatoes for about 30 minutes before grilling, which resulted in a deliciously tender potato texture.  the cabbage went on first, for about 40 minutes, then the potatoes, then the pork.  total prep/cook time? 1.5 hours, including preheating the grill.  total deliciousness? TOTAL.

finally, i am proud to say that the TUFlock has been ramping up egg production of late, even in this relentless heat.  after a slightly extended period of settling in, sammo has begun laying beautiful light green easter eggs, as is typical of her araucana breed.  bolo started laying a week after their arrival on the Totally Urban Farm, and amused us by laying disproportionately diminutive eggs to her rather substantial size.  they are darker brown than the silkie eggs, so we begin to have a lovely variety of shell colors!
twitter and tumblr, the littles, are starting to look like true chickens.  they have quite a bit more to grow, and should be laying by december.  and pearl and ninja remain faithfully adorable and eggtastic.

that's the latest from the TUF...fall gardening is still on our radar, eggs are about to be plentiful enough to give away, and many more adventures await.  thank you for reading, Gentle Reader, and stay tuned! 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer TUFavorites

ah, the bittersweet end of summer.  the joy and sorrow of a public school teacher.  it's the moment i know is inevitable, but that seems astronomically far away--until it is upon me.  i look forward to it eagerly whilst wistfully clinging to the last wisps of summer vacation.  these wonderful wistful wispy last wisps. whoa.

anyway, what a summer of TUF it has been!  new adventures, old comforts, expansive activity juxtaposed with blissful time-whiling.  as an ode to this summer, it seems appropriate to pause and honor those events, items and places that contributed to the TUF increase in awesome we have witnessed over the past few months.  i give you, in the order of how they occur to me right now...the TUFaves:

1) New Tattoos by Bart Willis at South Side Tattoos.  bart is probably THE best tattoo artist you'll ever encounter, and also one of the kindest and funniest guys you'll probably ever meet in your life as well.  i sent him a digital picture of my favorite Remedios Varo painting (Still Life Reviving, 1963), and he fit me into his busy schedule the following week.  as he tattooed a beautifully faithful reproduction of this painting on my right shoulder, we discussed the ins and outs of chicken keeping, air conditioners and being grown ups.  he's just the best, all around.  if you want a tattoo and live in austin, go to bart!

2) Toobin' the Comal River in New Braunfels.  for whatever reason, i had never toobed before.  i think i may have been one of the very few in austin to never have experienced this leisurely rite of passage. so last wednesday, i took my maiden voyage with dan and three other dear darling friends.  someone should have broken a champagne bottle on my butt.

it was a brilliant time!  since the drought has gone on for so long, the 'normal' tubing river (the guadalupe) had very little water in it.  however, the beautiful (if short) comal river is spring-fed, so it stays refreshingly 72 degree-ly full!  i had the great good fortune to go with experienced toobers, and there was no shortage of beer or hilarity as we floated away the afternoon.  we got rock-star parking, and had excellent toob service from Corner Tubes.  several world crises were solved, hunger and racism were eliminated from civilization, dogs and ducklings were cooed over, and emergency broadcast systems were tested over the course of our double float.  we all got lightly broiled and sundrench-delerious.

3) Air Conditioner Repair by Autumn Heating and Cooling.  okay this one is boring.  remember how i mentioned that bart and i discussed air conditioning? well.  the reason was because ours went out, and this is a summer not only of TUFun, but also excruciating, record-breaking heat.  we here on the Totally Urban Farm usually do a really good job about staying positive, but when the condenser goes out, you get the run-around from several other AC companies, and it's 96 degrees in the middle of the night one night, positivity starts to fade a bit.  however, autumn ended up being quick and professional, and installed a new outside unit and inside coil for half of what we might have paid.  so yay for them! and yay for a liveable indoor environment!

4) TUFriends Who Have Chickens. I am so honored to know people who are paving the TUF way already, having gorgeous chicken coops and gardens and compost piles and whatnot.  this beautiful set up was built from scratch by our friend Cliff, who has designed a coop that opens every which way but loose.  see the little chicken size door?  is that not adorb?  they have five ladies at the moment in different stages of maturity, all of whom are lucky to be living in backyard chicken heaven.  also: they have a really cute schnauzer whose derrier is apperrier in this shot.

5) TUFriends Who Give Us Chickens.  at the very beginning of the summer, we had just the two Original Chickens, pearl and ninja.  they came from a good friend who had to move away, and we were so happy to receive them.  then in mid-june we acquired twitter and tumblr from Callahan's (another TUFave!) for $12 and $4, respectively.  THEN, just last week, another friend needed to move and hooked us up with sammo and bolo, the two beautiful new girls.  so, we build the coop, and suddenly we have 6 chickens, 4 of whom were free, lowering the average cost-per-chicken to $2.67 each.  we have even had the great fortune to have a TON of organic chicken feed and a bag of hay donated to us from our other dear friends, who lost their two dearies in a tragic accident but who would like to enter into an eggs-for-feed arrangement with us--so TUF!  the lesson from all this chicken acquisition?  if you build it, they will (keep) come(ing).  so get building!
p.s. i'm just kidding about the 'keep coming' part.  6 chickens is ALL we need!

now these TUFaves are specific, recent and still fresh on my mind. but there have been many TUFventures from june and july that remind me what an eventful summer it has been!  so, as i soak up these last few days of TUFsummer 2011, i also want to deeply appreciate you, Dear Reader, who cares enough to slog through all my blither and participate in creating my TUF memory and inspiration.  thanks.

a whole new level of TUFness cometh...being a science teacher, increased egg production, fall gardens, pickle attempts,, as always: more soon!

Friday, August 5, 2011

TUFlock (semi)Unexpected Part Deux: Sammo and Bolo

as a dear friend put it, we "tripped and fell" into two more chickens!

now, the original goals of this Totally Urban Farm project specified keeping up to 4 chickens in our coop and run.  between pearl and ninja and twitter and tumblr, we were already getting beautiful eggs on a regular basis while watching the littles grow quickly and awkwardly into bigs.

then last monday happened.  another lovely friend calls to tell me that HER friend must rehome his flock, as he was making an unexpected move out of state.  bleeding heart, cue bleeding!  i tried to stop myself.  but i heard me say, "oh yeah, we could probably take 2 more chickens," and then i watched myself text message the guy to arrange for a chicken pick up.  i didn't hear from him, so i thought the gig was off.  and so much the better, said i to myself.

that night, i dreamt of chickens.  i was walking down some strange garden path lined with plants that looked like chicken combs sticking out of the ground like carrot tops.  i reached down for one of the carrot combs, and pulled up an enormous black chicken.  she fell in behind me like a puppy.  delighted, i continued down the path, pulling up more and more huge chickens until i had an army of beautiful adoring chickens following me.  they were so black their feathers were greenly purply irridescent, and so big it took two arms to hold them.  it was a nice dream.

the next day i did hear from the man with the flock--the gig NOT off!--and went out to choose two of his beautiful hens to add to our TUFlock. (i laughed at myself a little, ha HA!) as i walked into his coop, the first chicken i see is THIS CHICKEN:
the EXACT chicken that was in my dream!  i couldn't believe it.  he told me she is a cochin, one of the largest breeds of chicken around, with origins in china and victorian england.  she has spectacular pantaloons, and the softest, shiniest, purply-green blackiest feathers.  when i pick her up, i can't believe the volume of her feathers!  it helps that she immediately proved to be quite sweet and tame, even seeking out strokes and scratches.  i found my dream chicken. literally.

the second chicken i noticed had amazing cheek feathers and a fluffy beard!  she was splashed with red and gold, and had slate gray feet.  the flockmaster said she was an araucauna, the predecessor to the ameraucana, with origins in south america.  to my obvious and desperately hopeful  next question...."araucauna....does she lay green eggs?" he casually replied, "oh sure!  she lays easter eggs." !!!!!

another TUF reverie come true!  tumblr, we think, is also destined to lay green or blue eggs...but to come into an easter-egg laying chicken 6 months before schedule?  *faint*

she is not as big nor as fluffysoft as the cochin...her feathers are sleeker, with the exception of that almost impossibly fluffy face fuzz.  tumbler, as an ameraucauna herself, also shows signs of impressive cheek feathers.  so one day soon we will have TWO beautiful blue-green egg layers!

they have adjusted well to our backyard set up, and i was pleasantly surprised at how quickly and gently the new pecking order was established.  the two new ladies definitely have the size advantage on the silkies and chicks, but after only a little while and a few pecks and runabouts, who is who was established. and so, we needed names.
the golden araucauna has been dubbed Sammo, and the black cochin christened Bolo.  Pearl and Ninja came with their  names, of course, but when the chicks came around we decided to go with a particular theme for naming--hence Twitter and Tumblr.  due to the fact that we acquired these two lovelies later, and they are HUGE in comparison to our OCs (Original Chickens), i chose a new theme: my favorite kung fu movie bad guy actors. Sammo Hung (jowly!) and Bolo Yeung (GINORMOUS).

welcome yogurt party
they haven't started laying quite yet, but that's to be expected as they settle into their new environs.  which they seem to be doing really well.  it appears that sammo is in charge of everyone at the moment, though i think her reign will be challenged by tumblr in the future. i wonder!
dustbath hunker!

twitter knows how to party.

poulet des rêves

pearl, sammo and bolo

yin yang OCs

an amusing develoment in coop politics: it appears that the enormous bolo and the dimunitive ninja have hit it off.  my theory is that when one looks at the other, she sees herself............

i think this makes pearl a little tiny bit lonely, for she has been especially cuddly lately.  and indeed, all chickens are cuddly in the evening, it would least these six. and i pet each of them before chicken-bedtime every night.  i'm so glad the new ladies seem to like their new digs, avian colleagues...and me!

(and hopefully i will not contract poison ivy secondary to chicken cuddling again. dan has warned me. we shall see.)