Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cooking: Fresh Salsa Recipe

First, the spicy...

Peel and Finely Chop:
1 small onion
3 large (or 4-5 small) cloves of garlic

Remove Ribs and Seeds (Unless you are adventurous) and finely chop:
3 fresh jalapenos (from my co-worker's garden)

Then the acid...

1 tbsp lemon (or lime) juice
1 tbsp vinegar

Coarsely Chop:
3 large red tomatoes (from my neighbor's garden)
1 large yellow tomato (from my co-worker's garden)

Finally, the seasoning....
1 tsp salt

Toss all of the ingredients together. Refrigerate at least an hour before serving.


  1. This is even better if you make it a day ahead.
  2. Of course you don't have to use your neighbors' produce. You could use your own. But mine are stalling this year and I can't wait! 
  3. If you DO use your neighbors' tomatoes, chances are they were extras they couldn't use, and therefore overripe. If so, drain your salsa before refrigerating. It should look more like a salad than a salsa when you put it in the fridge. It will make more juice as it rests.
  4. Different colored tomatoes aren't necessary, but it really makes a pretty salsa. Go ahead and use 4 red ones if you like. Seriously, cooking is an art, not a science.
  5. Yes, this is MY recipe, one I actually made. I like it. You may want cilantro, but I don't have any. You may not like it at all. That's OK, it won't hurt my feelings. I bet there are thousands of salsa recipes on the Internet. I bet a few are even better than mine. But this is a good one; I promise.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hillbilly Ingenuity: Impromptu Charcoal Grill

Here's the scene:

It's Friday night. You've got this lovely piece of pork, but it's "store" pork- the pre-seasoned kind. You bought it on sale, and weren't thrilled with the flavor last time. You are certain that it would taste so much better with a smoky flavor that only charcoal and some real hickory can give. What to do? Here's how Mr. & Mrs. Farmer solved the dilemma.


Mr. Farmer: We need to figure out how we are going to cook this pork. We don't have a charcoal grill.
Mrs. Farmer: So what? We have a metal wheel-barrow and an oven rack...
Mr. Farmer: No, not the wheel-barrow. We have the stone fire ring that we use to boil water for skinnin' and pluckin'!
Mrs. Farmer: And we have this re-bar that you welded into a grid for... why did you do that?
Mr. Farmer: It supports the 55 gallon drum we boil water in.

Mr. Farmer: The pork is smaller than that, but I hate to risk ruining the oven rack.
Mrs. Farmer: What about the rack from the gas grill?

Mrs. Farmer: So we have a fire, a means of support, and a rack. What will we use for a lid?
Mr. Farmer: The roaster pan lid!

Discounted "Store" Pork Loin: $3.50
Bag of Charcoal: $6.99
Lighter Fluid: $2.99
Bag of Potatoes: $3.99
Hillbilly Ingenuity: PRICELESS

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chickens: First Egg (No Shell!)

Commercial egg producers pay little attention to the soft, semi-transparent first eggs laid by their chickens. After all, even if these odd little wonders could survive the harsh machinery and sterilization process, without that smooth, white(or brown) shell, they just can't sell them. So what interest could they possibly have in them?

One of the coolest parts of being a farmer in a suburban setting is the shock factor. So many city-dwellers have no idea where their food comes from, and most would rather not know. Still every now and then you encounter one of these exciting moments where you can shock and amaze without terrorizing and disgusting your audience. These moments are pure magic. The no-shell egg is a great showpiece for the "Really? I didn't know that!" set.


I did a search on "shelless eggs", and for a moment became very excited because there was next to no information on them. For one brilliant moment, I was sure that I was about to compose a blog that would change the agricultural world forever.

Then I realized that "shelless" wasn't a word.

However, when I searched for "Eggs without Shells" I found that I might just have the coolest shell-free egg photos on the net. And your reward for sticking with me through this rambling post is that you get to see them.

"Shelless" Chicken Egg

Mr. Farmer Squishing Soft Shell Egg

No Shell Egg Squish
(and Accidental Dish Detergent Endorsement)

PS- For those of you who found your way here looking for "What do I do if my chicken lays eggs without shells?" here is your answer:

Don't worry about it. Chances are that your chicken, like mine, will start wrapping her eggs in shells in no time. If not, then you've got a defective chicken, but they are very rare. The third possibility is that your chicken might be sick, but probably only if she was previously laying normal eggs. In that case, better to analyze all of her symptoms before making any quick judgements... but a little extra calcium in her diet wouldn't hurt.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chickens: Bumble Foot

We lost 4 chickens to Bumble Foot this past week. These were the remaining 4 chickens, over 2 years old, from our very first brood. They were leghorns that gave many extra large to jumbo eggs at least every other day, but usually daily.

Bumble Foot is basically a staph infection of the foot in chickens. It is caused by the infection of small cuts on the unprotected feet of the not-so-concerned-with-cleanliness, not-so-bright, egg laying machines that we love so much. The cuts are from jumping off the perch by older or overweight birds. Ours fell into the former category.

So naturally I was concerned when large, fluid filled boils started appearing on the feet of the older chickens, right when some of our 30 new chickens became mature enough to start laying. After all, it could be contagious, and that's a big flock to risk. So we separated them immediately, cleaned the pen and the chicken house, and started the entire flock- sick or not- on an oral antibiotic.

When the sick chickens did not improve in a few days, Mr. Farmer decided it was time to intervene. Like any boil, the procedure is the same: Lance, Clean, Medicate, and Bandage. During that intervention, I discovered that maybe I'm not as "Little House on the Prairie" as I'd like to think I am.

We put  the first chicken head first into a burlap sand bag, so that just her feet were showing. She was calm and agreeable throughout the procedure, for which I was grateful. Unfortunately, the smell of the thick, white pus, combined with the fact that it was actually semi-solid and almost stringy, made me dizzy, and I had to sit down. After a moment of recovering, Mr. Farmer was able to go back to opening the boils with a scalpel. It was no small task when you consider the callus on a 2 year old chicken's feet. We had to repeat the process 3 or 4 times per chicken, so we stopped after the second one out of exhaustion. Mr. Farmer had to stop after each boil to wipe sweat away, as it was hot out and he had to bend over to reach the chicken in my lap as I sat with her. He tied gauze to the cleaned and medicated wounds, and put them back in the quarantine pen.

The chickens did not peck at their dressings or each other, but they did not improve either. Based on that, we decided it was time to dispatch them for the sake of the rest of the flock. Retiring them was not really an option either, since the infection would have undoubtedly spread to their blood and killed them slowly and painfully anyway.

So ends the first (and VERY successful) run of egg producers in my back yard. The second string has stepped up to the plate and is laying in full force now. The eggs are smaller, but they should get bigger as the birds mature.

"Dirty Butt" and Her Sisters

The New Brood - 2 Days Old - May 2010

The New Brood - Almost Ready to Lay - July 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ducks: The Dilemma

The following is a discussion we presume occurred in recent weeks in our mini-barnyard. The names have been omitted because we don't name our animals. They are livestock, for crying out loud, not pets.

Duck: What do I do? They killed my brother! I think they ATE him!
Chickens (Smugly): They don't kill us.
Duck: Well, why do YOU get to live? They killed the pigs, too.
Chickens: Hmmm... we lay eggs. Maybe it's because they can eat the eggs, so they don't have to eat us.
Duck: Eggs? Yeah, that makes sense. Pigs can't lay eggs, either! But I'm a bird! A GIRL bird! I can lay eggs!
Chickens: Go for it. It's worth a try.

And so, within days of her brother's (ahem) passing, the duck lays an egg. We give her straw and decide to let her live. Her eggs are big, strong, and delicious. There is much joy in the barnyard.

But, alas, the joy was short-lived, as in less than a week, she is no longer able to lay. Should we eat her? She is cage raised and tender like her brother, I am sure.... but she laid an egg. And egg-laying birds don't get eaten. Besides, Mr. Farmer says she likes me.

Oh no. I think she's a pet. I might have to name her now.


Saturday, August 7, 2010


First and foremost, I would like to differentiate between Stealth Farming and something commonly referred to as Night Farming. Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I was introduced to the term night farming by my father. On a long trek on our bikes one day, my sisters and friend and I encountered what to our tween-age eyes was surely the largest, most fruit laden pear tree on God's Green Earth. On a hot summer afternoon, where the lemonade we had brought for the trip had long since run out, this was without a doubt the most beautiful sight we could ever hope to see. And with no sign of the farmer around, we helped ourselves. That evening, as we shared our adventure with the man now called Grandfather, he told us stories of his youth and helping himself to the neighbors' gardens.

This is NOT what this blog is about.

This blog is about Stealth Farming: Practicing the Rural Arts in a Suburban Setting. Maybe your township, like mine, says you don't have enough land to raise chickens. Perhaps your neighbors, like mine, are happy to attend the pig roast on special occasions, but don't like to admit that the delicious animal they are enjoying died (and lived!) on their block. Or could it be that it is wonderful to eat roast duck in a fancy restaurant, but it is icky to see one served at a family dinner, in spite of the fact that it is highest quality, hormone free, and fed nothing but the best its whole life?

In these hard economic times, small farms -like kitchen gardens- are becoming more popular and perhaps even necessary to the survival of the lower and lower-middle class. More and more are hunting, trapping, and farming to live. Yes, to LIVE.

This blogger has a family to protect, and a low enough income that a fine would be a hardship. So, in stealth, like we farm, I will write.

Stealth Farmer