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I don’t usually get that excited about eggs anymore. But today we got the first egg ever from Danny our tiny black banty hen. It’s the smallest chicken egg I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t find a ruler, but it was smaller than a standard 35mm roll of film. And about a third of the size of the eggs that Penny lays.

It’s so cute! Even Agnes lays bigger eggs than that. Hopefully they’ll get a bit bigger as she gets into this egg thing. Maisie is looking like she might start to lay in the next week or so. Her hips are getting wider and when you touch her back she now “assumes the position”. Can’t wait to see what color they are…

The New York Times published an article about the seeming increase in E. coli contamination this year. The government has issued guidelines that are supposed to increase meat safety, but are no more stringent than what Tyson Foods is already doing.

If they don’t work the federal government “believes that exposing meat to radiation is a safe and effective way to kill E. coli and other pathogens”. But even the big CAFO’s and meat processors are nervous about trying it, “because of fears that it would make meat more expensive, change the taste and color, and provoke consumer opposition”.

The article goes on to outline the extreme measures that meat processors are going to to kill of the bacteria including acid washes, steam treatments, hosing down the cattle and exploring new antibiotics. It also discusses the fact that the hide is the cause of contamination due to it’s matting with feces and mud.

The NY Times studiously fails to mention that CAFOs and feedlots by their very nature are the cause of the increase in E. coli. The reporter also ignores the opportunity to discuss the advantages, both for human and animal health, of pasture raised beef.

So yeah, let’s fix the problem by washing the cows and irradiating their meat. Because it would just be way too hard to treat them humanely and raise them on the feed and pasture that nature intended.

See the full story here.

Dreaming

Life is short. Visiting home always gets me, and by side effect Mike, dreaming of moving off of our city lot.

Maybe this cabin-style house half way to the country is the one? Only Saturday afternoon will tell.

In the spirit of the dream, we had local chicken fried steak, country gray, mashers and salad for dinner tonight.

Me and Ewe, Ewe and Me

My grandmother is holding her own and I’m back home. Thank you again for all of your well wishes, kind thoughts and prayers. I’ll let you know when anything changes.

And a round of applause for Anita for her recap post yesterday. She and Kim have both been a great help on keeping this going when I can’t post.

Today in Seattle was the second rainiest day since 1950. It was the kind of rainy day that people imagine when you tell them that it rains all winter here. But it was one of the most un-Seattle rainy days I’ve seen in a long time. It was just strange.

In the spirit of the name of this post, any one need a ewe? Or know anyone that does?

Sheep-12012007

Photo is from March when the lambs were little…

My grandmother has 22 head of almost Merino sheep running on her farm right now. She was planning to thin her flock but hadn’t found a taker yet, so now we’re in the position of needing to do it for her.

There are 13 one to two year old ewes and 1 young buck looking for new homes. The ewes were all bred this fall, but we’re not guaranteeing that they’re pregnant. Those that are should lamb in February and March. They are almost pure Merino, with a little bit of something else mixed in.

We’re asking $100 each for them, but of course if someone takes more than one there’s room for negotiation. The farm is located about 15 miles west of Minneapolis and it’s easiest if they go to a farm within Minnesota. Of course if someone from out of state wants a large portion of the flock the appropriate vet certifications can be secured.

If you’re interested, or someone you know is, or you have a suggestion for how else we can rehome these ewes, drop me a note through the contact page, or leave a comment here.

Whew, I have a new appreciation for what Laura does every week! Please let me know in the comments if I overlooked your Week 7 post. And thanks for your patience.

(Note: Some Dark Days participants have added Week 8 posts since I started recapping; This roundup includes “Dark Days Week 7″ posts published 11/25 to 12/1.)

—–
Back East:
Kim at Yankee Food channels every cook’s fantasy of someone else making dinner. Alas, the supper genie never materialized, but Kim did just fine on her own with chicken sausage and potatoes, with baked delicata squash and a salad on the side.

The first of many pots of leftovers-into-soup was simmered by Christy at Farm Dreams. She made turkey-noodle soup out her Thanksgiving carcass, and served it up with golden slices of homemade sweet-potato bread. Almost everything was from less than 50 miles away.

More leftovers make it to the table courtesy of Ed at The Slow Cook. That giant bird they roasted last week (you remember? the one that they helped butcher themselves!) shows up in a gorgeously messy hot-turkey sandwich, with a homegrown-lettuce salad on the side.

Over at Touch the Earth Farm, Danielle served up two local dinners: A luxurious blue-cheese-topped steak with greens, potatoes, and salad… in addition to the obligatory pot of post-holiday turkey soup; hers was served with panini on homemade bread.

Nicole at Farm to Philly laments the end of her CSA deliveries, but spreads out the word on a different way to find local food through the dark days: the Winter Harvest buying club.

Another delicious take on Thanksgiving leftovers comes from The Purloined Letter, in the form of a belly-warming turkey pot pie. Meat and gravy from the holiday platter meet up with repurposed pumpkin soup and some fresh farmers market greens. (Note to self: Don’t recap when you’re hungry.)

Leda at Urban Homestead is rolling in dough, turning locally-grown and -milled flour into a plethora of breads: Sourdough, buttermilk, and crackers. She claims (uh-huh!) that she wants to share the recipes with us, but regrets her recipes are so dependent on on-the-fly adjustments. She relents at the end and links off to the recipes that inspired her.

Speaking candidly about something we all wrestle with, Sophie at Locavores gets honest about the difficulty of hitting her self-imposed locavore benchmarks. She outlines every thing she ate on a single day last week — a fairly typical mix, she owns — and finds it’s closer to 60% than 90% local.

Proving there’s balance in all things: Jasmine at 40 Shades of Green serves up a timely reminder that eating local isn’t about denying yourself non-local foods but celebrating the pleasures of “supporting small farmers [and] knowing where my food comes from”. She dished up a comforting meal of roasted Brussels sprouts and an onion-and-sundried-tomato stir-fry.

In the Middle:
Maybe Local serves up a recap of a “pretty dang local” Thanksgiving — just about everything on the menu was from within her foodshed. Martha’s pie-crust recipe had Chessa cussing up a storm (what went wrong? I love that recipe like a puppy!) but the resulting pies — blueberry-buttermilk and real pumpkin — looked amazing.

Yay, more leftovers! FarmMom at Children in the Corn whips her turkey trimmings into an adaptation of Joy of Cooking’s pot pie. Nearly everything — including the crust ingredients (I’m so jealous!) — hails from within 40 miles of the farm… much of it from her own garden.

Penny at Penelopedia finds time for a local meal despite a hectic work-week and a dog-sitting commitment that keeps her away from home: A simple supper of eggs and home-fried potatoes. (No argument from me: “breakfast served all day” is one of my favorite phrases.)

Inspired by a recipe from Lucullian Delights, Daniela the Culinary Student whips up a set of gluten-free Lemon and Fennel Tarts. A dead camera-battery followed by a slippery plate leaves her without her own photo to share, but… she improvises, like any good culinary student would.

Valereee at Cincinnati Locavore simmers up a variation on that old cookbook classic, Cock-a-Leekie Soup… with turkey, of course. She shares the recipe and a step-by-step rundown of how she put it all together. My favorite step: sauteeing veggies in homemade butter.

Out West:
Having mastered her goal of finding one new local food each month, Donna at Chocolate Crayons ponders dropping out of the challenge. But she takes stock of her pantry, she finds she’s got plenty of local food on hand — she’s sticking with us! Her official meal this week: pork chops, potatoes, leftover cranberry sauce, and frozen summer CSA veggies.

Laura at Hello, Sunshine says what all of us are thinking: This is getting harder. Even out here in the relatively temperate coastal areas, the farmers markets are getting sparse. Her favorite meal — steamed kale with dressing and some avocado — gets a big boost from the “off the charts” deliciousness of the greens.

Ellen at The Daily Grind muses about all the places she’s seeing locavore topics pop up, and all of the local-eating challenges on her radar this autumn. Later, she turns to Barbara Kingsolver’s eggs in a nest recipe for an easy weeknight meal.

Eric Scholsser (of Fast Food Nation fame) is the (virtual) dinner guest over at Kale for Sale, where no less than four Dark Days meals are served. Katrina opts for a romantic meal of roasted roots, a supper of eggs and rice topped with homegrown peppers, and a grab-and-go chicken with broccoli. Oh, and turkey soup, of course!

Saara at Skagit Foodshed hits the road for a trip to Portland, but doesn’t intend to leave her locavore ways behind. She’s planning plenty of Dark Days dining-out — she’ll have it easy in the Emerald City — plus a pit stop at the Northwest’s favorite SOLE fast-food chain, Burgerville. (I’m jealous again!)

Jennye at Wool Fairy ponders the possibilities of potatoes by the bushel for next week’s Hannukah latkes, while taking her turn with the honey baked lentils and roasted delicata squash that everyone’s talking about. Surprise, surprise: The kids love it, too!

KMBerrien at Feeding the Boogie has another week of ‘eat-down’ meals, once again tapping into the winter larder to keep the freezer from bursting at the seams. A pair of slow-cooker meals included a sweet-meets-savory pork chop and cranberries stew, and a pot of chicken-sausage and peppers.

And back home at Married… with Dinner, yours truly belatedly outlines our 100-mile Thanksgiving feast (complete with geeky spreadsheet!), offering a recipe for everything-from-scratch pumpkin pie as an apology for slothful posting behavior. Our visiting family also scarfed down locavore versions of lasagna and salad, pork chops and risotto, and our traditional “(Not)-Spam” holiday brunch.

Just checking in

My grandmother came home to her house yesterday afternoon. She currently has 24-hour hospice care to ensure that she’s safe and comfortable. Since she has a DNR order, there is no real nursing going on, just care.

It’s not clear what’s happening. After going steadily downhill both physically and mentally while in the hospital she seemed to rally late (for her) last night. She hasn’t been able to walk, stand, roll over in bed or really swallow for days, but after a bit of Ed’s amazing soup and a nap, she managed to get up and walk into her kitchen with her aide following behind. As her wonderful helper said “She didn’t walk, she stepped out”. Of course after that she slept for 12 hours straight.

Today she was a bit more alert, even getting out of bed again to sit in her wheelchair in her kitchen. However, as she doesn’t believe in western medicine, she’s not receiving any treatment for the underlying, unknown, condition(s) that caused this stroke and the previous smaller ones that she’s had.

My grandmother has come home to die. Whether that will be in the next week or so as the hospice nurse and social worker predicted remains to be seen. But even if it’s not, it’s just a matter of time until the next stroke, and until the stroke that will kill her.

I’m very glad that I came home to see her. She may not be all there, but at least last night she recognized who I was. She asked about our “farm”, Mike, my pickles and her sheep. She enjoyed her soup and even asked for more. She has been for a few moments longer my grandmother and the next time she might not be.

Mystery eggs

There are a couple side effects of having a heat lamp with a red bulb in the girls’ roost box for warmth.

1. They’re party girls – up until all hours of the night

2. When they get really brave they even venture out into the run in the strange reddish light

3. We’re starting to get eggs again, and will get one or two a day until spring

Of course, I can’t figure out who’s laying the eggs as they’re not a color or shell finish that I recognize. They don’t belong to Maisie as she’s still a couple weeks away from starting to lay. They’re not Lucy’s even though they’re almost the right color. They don’t belong to Agnes or Penny. And I’m pretty sure that they’re too big to be Danny’s even though I expect her to start laying any day now.

So that leaves Pru. But they’re pinker than the eggs she layed last spring and early summer. Hmmm. Mystery eggs. I hope that they are in fact hers as it would be nice to have her start paying rent again. Oh well, I get they’ll taste good anyway.

I know that some people disagree with giving hens a light during the winter as it can potentially shorten their lives. But I feel that it’s okay as long as I make sure they have plenty of calories and calcium to support them in their efforts.

*****

I’m headed out early tomorrow morning to go see my family. My grandmother is still holding her own, although mentally she’s not quite there. Her children are respecting her longstanding aversion to Western medicine and wishes for no medical intervention, so it’s hard to know what’s really happening or what the future holds. Thank you again to all of you for your prayers and well wishes.

As I’ll be traveling home on Sunday, Anita (Married with Dinner) has graciously offered to help me out by posting the recap. So stay tuned for her guest appearance – I can’t wait to read about what everyone’s been up to!

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