Letter from Birdland: Feasting on an abundant harvest
Summer has come crashing down on Birdland just in time for school. After months of mild, sweet weather, it's soupy outside. The damp coolness means the yard is lush and green. The grass is tall. Black-eyed Susans and a few shasta daisies open into the sky. Butterflies abound, and in the afternoons, hoards of dragonflies fly in dodging patterns over our heads.
The corn stands tall and still makes a fortress around our house, but we haven't lost any chickens for a few weeks. Maybe the young of foxes and coyotes are doing their own hunting, content with field mice and voles.
The corn is beginning to yellow from the bottom up. Soon the fields will exchange green for a tawny gold. Already the corn is going brown when you look down from the second-story window. Viewed from the top we see the tassels.
The garden has begun to turn the page toward autumn. I've been picking cucumbers and beans for a few weeks. Tomatoes have been green all summer, but suddenly, with the heat, they are beginning to ripen. I have my first tiny crockpot of sauce simmering in the kitchen. The cucumbers are easiest. I planted two kinds this year, and I peel the ones with the thick, kind of bitter, skin and leave the peels on the others.
I slice thick discs into a bowl with salt, pepper, and herbs (thyme, basil, parsley, chives from my herb spiral) and drizzle them with olive oil and a little honey, then chug some vinegar over them and add water to cover. That is our summer salad; we eat it every day.
The beans I snap into a crockpot. I've got bush beans Pam and David shared from their garden and my own pole beans. I also planted for the first time Asian yard long beans. These don't want to snap, so I cut them with scissors into inch and a half pieces. Yard long is kind of an exaggeration. The longest ones I've picked have been a foot and a half.
Anyway, I put all these in my biggest crockpot, which is probably 6 quarts. I add a half cup of vegetable broth and fry up some bacon and sliced onion and whatever herbs I feel like. I cook the whole mess on low until they're tender.
A bowl of these with a little cheese (feta, parmesan or even cottage) stirred in while it's warm and sunflower seeds sprinkled on top is a lovely, simple dinner that I could eat every night.
Anything left over I put in the freezer, because as soon as one batch is done, the beans are ready to pick again. I've been filling that 6-quart crockpot with beans all summer. But now they are beginning to slow. Some plants are withering. Beans I've missed are drying in the pods, and I'll leave them for next year's seeds. Some of the pods are starchy when I snap them, and these I just pop out the beans to add to the mess.
The little black chicks are growing larger. Judging from their tails, I would say we have two pullets and three cockerels, but I guess we won't know for sure until the cockerels begin to crow.
The flock has considerably thinned since the beginning of summer, and I went ahead and popped some Serama eggs into the incubator. The hatch was only half successful, but we now have six tiny yellow chicks. These are the teacup chickens, who will grow only to the size of my teapot.
They are still downy, but wing feathers poke out a little more each day, each hour, in fact. I think today is the day I will make a little pen close to the house, with a light to keep them warm. I'll bring them in at night, but today they'll get a taste of the wide world.
Hatch in beauty; garden peace; blessed be.
Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in the turning of the seasons and good things to eat for everybody. You can read more about Birdland and see photos at http://www.letterfrombirdland.blogspot.com. Mary can be reached at email@example.com or via snail mail care of this newspaper.