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Friday, June 29, 2012

Goodbye to the Angus Boys

The remaining three Angus steers went off to the processor yesterday and though only the red steer had a name, Sir Loin, and the other two had number tags attached to their ears, I have learned that when we raise meat up close and personal, knowing them as individuals just can't be helped. And then it's sad to see them go.

Sir Loin, a Red Angus/Brown Swiss cross was the wild one. He wanted little to do with us and usually would hang back when we fed hay this past winter, letting the two Black Angus fellows rush up to the cafeteria window first.

Numbers 30 and 27 were the sweeties, taking treats from our hands, even allowing a little nose scratching in the winter. Once the grass started growing, though, forget it! All I'd get would be a galoopy, black-tongued lick on the hand once in a while. Then it was back to grazing in the grass. I could dig it.

Yesterday they moved into their temporary corral with little fanfare, loaded right into the trailer, and then they were gone. Mike, one of the guys driving The Boys to their end, said to me later that I looked sad as I told them goodbye and thank you. Yes, I was sad.

All I know is The Nickel and Dime Ranch was an excellent home, pasture and hay for their entire lives and the freedom to meander wherever their hooves took them on the ranch's 100 acres.

There would be no feedlot destination for these guys, fed corn and corn only.

There would be no manure dust kicked up by thousands of cows to infect their eyes.

There would be no foul, stinking air or open sewers.

Yes, they would have had more fat marbling after a stay at the feedlot, but at what cost? Is that any way to treat someone you know?

The processor was small, slaughtering (I hate that word, but that's what happens) about 6 animals a day, so there was less stress for the animals and for the folks doing the work than at a large corporate conveyer belt kind of place.

The small natural foods grocers and restaurants who will buy the beef will be happy to know where the Angus Boys came from and that the rancher raised them with respect and care.

We will miss watching our steers resting in the grass, satisfied, as the light changes in the New Mexico afternoon.

 Angus Boys, thank you, and goodbye.

Monday, June 25, 2012

End of June: Growing Dome Update

Ahhh! Summer is here and the garden is growing like a 12 year old boy and almost as unruly. Bring out the nets and the twine!

When I say garden, I am talking about the stuff I grow in the Growing Dome. So far we have picked yellow zucchini, green beans, six cherry tomatoes, kale, basil, rosemary, and lemon thyme. We have had some warm days here, in the upper 80's, so my work in the dome must be done early or late because it gets hot in there when the sun is overhead. We do have shade cloth over half the dome, because high altitude sun is fierce.

Here are my cucumbers, the Poona Kheera variety I wrote about here.

I just couldn't wait, so did a little internet perusing and many growers of this cucumber, which is native to India, said it was okay to pick when they had  turned from green to yellow. So I took a couple yellow cukes and one that was turning from yellow to brown.

These cukes were sweet with no bitterness or astringency at all,  white inside and at the yellow stage, small seeds. As the skin gets brown, they will continue to be sweet, but the seeds will be larger.

When I am in the dome I like to wear an apron to keep my clothes clean. (My childhood nickname was Susie Slop A** because let me loose and I would be dirty in a minute!) An apron is handy, too, to carry the stuff you picked into the house if you forgot a container.

Below is a pic of the green bean harvest yesterday morning. They were a tight squeeze in my apron's pocket.

This is just enough for the two of us for dinner, steamed for 5 minutes, finished with a little salt, pepper, and butter. As summer goes on, we will get fancier, but the first green beans get the simple treatment. Here's another green bean recipe for later, if you are ready to move beyond basic.

Yesterday, though, there was a surprise in the dome, and not a good one. Check out this kale plant!

Since I am not familiar with kale and how it looks when it's growing, I missed this at first, but realized yesterday that even kale called Dinosaur Kale shouldn't look like this. This was Lacy Kale, which sounds like a great name for a country singer, but not for the stuff I am growing!

Upon closer inspection on the undersides of the leaves, I found the problem: Little wormy fellows having a feast. Eww!

This is when I wish I had chickens, because they would be standing nearby in their pen, pacing back and forth, ready for me to share some of these rare and tasty delicacies. Instead, I moved the green wormsters down to the creek for the birds to find. Bon appetit!

Then I cut the damaged leaves off and we will see what happens. I'm giving the kale about a week to start growing anew. If it doesn't recover, I have some nice bell pepper plants looking for a home.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pretty Flowers

I will catch you up on everything, but today is a quickie since I must go to the dentist and that's going to be a whole 'nother story, as well.

So here's a little garden inspiration for you. Orlando's is a Taos institution, a friendly, tasty, homey eating place that opens up its patio for dining during the summer.

Wish me luck at the dentist!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Come Set a Spell

The weather is friendly enough for sitting on the porch, usually in the afternoon, a cold beverage close at hand.

Sometimes rain snare drums the metal roof or clouds drift across a blue sky like dancers across an ever changing stage.  Red tail hawks surf the air currents, wings barely moving, scanning below for an unsuspecting morsel to venture out of its rock home.

Life is good.

Monday, June 11, 2012


When we lived in Inland Southern California, our green season was early spring, after the winter rains. California poppies on the hillsides stopped traffic on the I-15 freeway and folks flocked to the desert to check out the wild flowers. 

But those green hillsides and fields of poppies were fleeting, almost cruel in the shortness of their flowery lives. They were here and then, look again, they weren't. And everything turned sere: withered and brown.

Northern New Mexico has a green season, too, as long as it snows enough and rains enough to get everything growing. During late spring through late summer, with help from monsoonal rains (when they come) everything looks fresh, clean and verdant. The green lasts here at bit longer, but come autumn, when the leaves drop, the rains go away, and the snow begins to fall, we have our own brown (and white) time, too, with dead grass crunching underfoot like shredded wheat under that brilliant blue New Mexico sky.

The monsoons aren't due for a couple weeks or so, but there have been a couple good rains to get things started. Here's what it's like right now.

 This is a view from the creek looking toward the house. Lots of good green stuff for the steers to eat.

Number 27 and his bros have been munching away on all the delicacies available to them, which this year doesn't include the cukes in the Growing Dome. Look at Sir Loin lying down in the background. He's ready for a siesta.

Rockier places with poor soil seem to attract wildflowers. The yellow plants are yarrow and the red ones are Indian paintbrush. Here's a closer look:

The big trees are leafing out, too. We're calling this one in the photo below The Bear Tree. Last week Tom was moving some big branches when out of the corner of his eye he saw a large brown object streak by, not 6 feet from where he was standing. Then he saw two bears climb down from this tree and zoom up the rimrock. Tom zoomed in the opposite direction and Ms. Pearl, who was sniffing around in the vicinity, missed the whole thing.

So now this is The Bear Tree. We haven't seen the bears since.

 And Ms. Pearl gets the award for Most Unaware Doggie in the neighborhood.

But I don't think she cares all that much!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Trudy's Coleslaw

 If you don't like coleslaw, then we have something in common. The coleslaw I remember as a child was swimming in watery mayonnaise, the cabbage limp. And let's not blame my mom; she never made coleslaw.

Instead, this icky slaw (isn't slaw a gross-sounding word?)  was a side dish served when my mom and I had lunch at a local restaurant or scooped from a cardboard cup included with takeout Kentucky Fried Chicken. There was an odd tang to the dressing and it tasted old. And amazingly, I think my parents must have agreed with me, because they didn't make me eat it, except for one Girl Scout bite once in a blue moon.

When I was fifteen and a half, working my first job as a short order cook at Waltze's Drive-In, I learned why the dressing tasted weird: it came from giant plastic jars, the dressing made years before it was finally mixed with the cabbage.

The first time I had my mom-in-law's coleslaw I was transported. Trudy's coleslaw was fresh tasting and crunchy, with not just cabbage, but chopped bell peppers, carrots, onion, celery, whatever she felt like adding that day. The dressing reminded me of my mom's beloved potato salad and I became a lover of coleslaw, at least Trudy's.

A few years later I received a treasured present: family recipes with stories about each dish, painstakingly transferred to 3 by 5 inch cards in Trude's handwriting. The coleslaw recipe was there. The recipe is not always the same, but evolves depending on what's in the fridge or the pantry.

Trudy's Coleslaw

  • 1 cup mayonnaise (up to half of this can be yogurt or sour cream)
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar (start with 1 tablespoon and then taste. Add more if you want)  
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard 
  • 1 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon celery seed
  • (you may substitute 3/4 teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning for the salt and celery seed)  
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk if your dressing seems a little thick
  • 4 cups shredded or finely chopped green cabbage (mix in a little red cabbage for color if you want)
  • 1 cup shredded or finely chopped mixed veggies (carrot, onion, bell pepper, celery, etc.) 
  • Optional garnish: sliced green onion tops 

1. In a large bowl, mix together the dressing ingredients.

2. Add the cabbage and other veggies to the bowl. If your hands are clean and no one is looking, use them to mix the dressing and the shredded veggies. (Don't feel weird doing this because lately I've noticed chefs using this technique to mix salads.)

3. Garnish with some sliced green onions, if you wish.