Category Archives: Farm Life

A bluejay’s breakfast

I heard a racket outside my office, and glanced outside just in time to see a young bluejay perched on the clothesline, being fed by its mother (or father? Apparently they all look alike.)


So naturally, I crept outside with my camera and waited for the next course.

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What’s up

Pretty much everything in the garden is going crazy now. It’s a jungle out there! First up, the Bee Garden:

Bee Garden

And the lavender plants scattered throughout the garden are just starting to bloom:


The violas have been going for a while now, and are just begging to be put on top of cupcakes and scattered through salads (the flowers are edible, in case you didn’t know.)


And the bush beans: We’re doing a lot of different varieties this year, both dried and fresh. They’re finally recovering after their run-in with a family of rabbits.


The pole beans have been pretty busy, too:


The sugar snap peas got their first blossoms today:sugar_snap_blossom

And we’re getting our first ripe tomato, too. This plant is a Stupice (prounounced Stew-pEEch-ka) and it’s always our earliest tomato (and one of the last to quit in the fall.) Russian/Siberian varieties like this one do great in Colorado’s short growing season, so I grow a lot of them.


We’re starting to get some peppers, too:


And finally, just as I was about to give up and plant more seeds, our pink banana squash broke through the ground. pink_banana

This is the rhubarb from our friends across the street. It’s finally starting to take off now, hopefully we’ll be able to harvest some before too long! Because I think I need more cakerhubarb

And the cilantro patch, which pretty much just grows wild, is already starting to bolt and reseed itself.bolting_cilantro

And the flowers…



snapdragons white_columbine  chamomile

And out in the coop, a few chickens have made the move up to the roost, where they’re sleeping with the big chickens (the rest are still dog-piling on the floor.) And who else would be the first, but Shelly (she’s the one on the right.) The little guy next to her is another of the five “special” chickens that stayed in the house under observation for the first week. Didn’t really expect these two to be leading the pack, but I couldn’t be more proud.


And the obnoxiously friendly Asada is now able to fly all the way up to my shoulder when I’m standing. She spent a while roosting happily on my head and shoulders while I tried in vain to get a picture, and then flew down just as the shutter went off.


And then one of Cutlet’s daughters, who we call Patty, decided to join the club and perched on my arm until I kicked her off. We’re going to get some really nice hens out of this batch (and I’m hoping both of these girls will lay green eggs.)


Where’d all these chickens come from?

The chicks aren’t chicks anymore. They’re about to turn 6 weeks old, and now, they’re chickens.


The boys are starting to make themselves known, with big combs and little scuffles popping up everywhere. We’ve identified 10 that seem to be cockerels, exactly what we’d expect from the 19 chicks we hatched. I’ll go into detail about sexing chickens in another post, once I get photos of everyone. Not that I’m an expert or anything, quite the opposite. But I am finding it a lot easier to compare boys and girls now that there are so many of them.


The easter egger chicken above, known as Five Spice, is 100% boy. The large comb and the coloring are dead giveaways, even to me (and I convinced myself that my last two roosters were hens.)


This is Crispy, one of our assisted hatch chickens. Remember Crispy? We’re thinking girl for this one, but not sure yet. The other rough hatch chicks, Shelly and Sesame, are almost certainly girls. Glad I helped them out!


We ended up with 5 Easter Egger/Speckled Sussex chicks, which we refer to collectively as “The Cutlets,” after their mother. They are all very similar in appearance and turning out to be great little chickens — wily and very pretty. I think 3 of those are roosters, including this guy:


And last but not least:


This little barred easter egger, called Asada, is by far the friendliest chicken I’ve ever met. She flies up to perch on my shoulder when I bend down to refill their feeder, and settles in my lap for a nap if I sit down in the run. So far she looks like a girl, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed a while longer. Maybe you can cross yours too?

Rhubarb Upside-down Cake


Good neighbors are a wonderful thing to have, and we’re lucky to have quite a few of them. But our friends across the street are the absolute best. They care for our animals when we’re away, they let us borrow their hatchet, and they even drop by with surprise deliveries of spring flowers and little custard tarts. And did I mention the rhubarb?



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General Tso’s Bad Day Pâté

Early on the morning of Memorial Day, our brave rooster General Tso crowed his last.


The General was a Speckled Sussex rooster, and he was not altogether a bad guy. He always let the ladies eat first, and he was very protective of his flock — especially Kung Pao, who hatched and raised him from a chick. But as the General’s testosterone surged, things got to a point where we couldn’t take food out to the chicks or change their water without fending off an attack. Everything was a threat: The big plastic waterer, the bucket we carry feed in, the reflective stripes on my sister’s running pants.


Clearly, we were headed for another Colonel Sanders. Though he hadn’t actually drawn blood from any visitors yet, the prospect of having friends bring their kids over to meet the chickens made me shudder. And the poor hens, much fewer than he should have had, lost most of their back feathers and ran from his advances. The flock dynamic was all wrong.

And so with heavy hearts, we decided it was time to butcher our rooster.

This was my first time killing a chicken, at least directly. Over my lifetime, without really acknowledging it, I’ve commanded the deaths of thousands of chickens. Ordering it in restaurants, buying pullets from a feed store; it’s not really any different when you slaughter your own bird. It just seems that way, because it’s right there in front of you.

We helped some good friends with a few of their chickens last year, so we knew what to do and how to process the General afterward. But I’ve never personally taken the life of a creature in its prime, looking it in the eye and breathing the same air. It was a heavy prospect for me, and I shed a few tears in the days leading up to it as we made preparations. As I’m sure I will this fall, when it’s time to process the roosters from the chicks we hatched last month. But I knew I could handle it, because I realized long ago that if I’m going to keep eating meat I should be okay with where it comes from.

In the end, it was not an easy morning but it went exactly as we hoped. The General went to sleep on his roost and woke up in a dog crate, with no stressful chase and capture. His last morning was a beautiful one, with birds singing and the scent of lilacs on the breeze. And then, in the space of a few seconds, it was over. A dignified end for a rooster who meant well, but whose time had come.


The General is relaxing in the fridge for a couple days, so that he’ll be nice and tender. Last night, I cooked his liver and made it into a little pâté, just enough for two. It was a perfect way to celebrate a fine rooster with a bit of a mean streak.

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General Tso

General TsoTheGeneral
is crowing in the moonlight

he does not know
that when he hops down
from the perch in the morning
it will be the last time.

He will crow in the morning, also,
and call excitedly to his hens
as I throw down the scraps, a few
more scraps than usual.

And he will run at me, as he has lately;
I will keep him back with the broom.

He will run at me, not knowing
that I have a hatchet, and a recipe.


(poem and photo by my sister, Anne Dirkse)


How’s it growing?

The past couple days have been spent almost entirely in the garden, and we’re finally almost done getting all the plants and soaker hoses in place. So I’m celebrating with a little macro tour.

First, the new peony:

peony_about_to_bloom peony

And the foxgloves, and the dahlias:



Then, the patches of self-seeding Violas and Larkspur that get bigger every year:



And Four O’Clocks: Another self-seeder that keeps popping up everywhere — I’ve pulled dozens out of the bean patch already. As my grandmother said, “A weed is just a flower out of place.” We love these particular weeds so much that we planted a second row this year.


And speaking of self-seeding: A few random beans popped up around the garden, too (the ones we planted last week are just starting to show up.)

volunteer_bean cranberry_bean

We’re growing lots of small eggplants, including my favorite, “Little Prince.”


And the basil. So much basil. I’ll be making ice cream with it tonight, if I can manage to stay awake past sunset.

purple_basil genovese_basil

And no garden is complete without tomatoes or peppers. Or tomatillos.

tomatillo tomato

Also squash, melons, and all the other delicious plants that are just about to break through the soil. I can’t wait.

Release the chicks! (3.5 weeks)


The chicks are going on 4 weeks old now, and everyone is doing great. Yesterday they got to come out and mingle in the yard with the big chickens (who stayed as far away as possible.)




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Tamari Roasted Almonds


I spent almost the entire weekend outside with my sister — weeding and tilling, planting flowers, and laying down plastic to keep the weeds at bay. There’s still a long list of things to be done yesterday, and I feel like I’ve been hit by a train (but in a good way.) I think we’re off to a solid start on our best garden yet, and I can’t wait to get back out there.


We took a break yesterday for a visit from our Mom, who is the source of our green thumbs. So of course we celebrated Mother’s Day with a trip to our neighborhood garden store. And also a special cake that my mom requested, which turned out even better than expected. That one will be making an appearance on the blog later this week.

But for now, I bring you something that only takes a little bit of effort: Tamari roasted almonds.


I got hooked on tamari almonds working at a health food store in college, and for years paid way too much to buy them already roasted. I attempted to make my own a few times, back when I was first learning to cook, and always ended up with almonds that were either chewy or burned (usually both.) After you’ve ruined a few pounds of raw almonds, the pre-roasted ones start to look like a bargain.


But last year, I revisited the idea and finally figured out how to make my own. And not only is it really simple, but much less expensive. Only I eat more of them than ever now, so I suppose it all balances out.

Tamari Roasted Almonds

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 3/4 pound

Tamari Roasted Almonds


  • 3/4 pound raw almonds
  • 3-4 tablespoons tamari soy sauce


  1. Spread almonds in a single layer in a large baking dish.
  2. Set oven to 325 and put almonds in, don't bother preheating. Set a timer to check them in 8 minutes.
  3. Stir and check the almonds every 2-5 minutes, gradually they will start to get a little more color and give off a toasty aroma.
  4. Sprinkle soy sauce over almonds and stir to coat; they should be a little wet but not swimming in it.
  5. Place almonds back in the oven for a couple minutes with the door cracked, stirring occasionally. When the liquid is almost all absorbed, transfer almonds to a dish to cool. Store in an airtight container.



A visitor from the pond

Just as I was starting to regret my decision to take my camera on a rainy stroll through the yard, my sister Anne spotted something that made it totally worthwhile:


I love frogs. And lucky for me, there are some huge ones living in the small pond out by the chicken coop, so I get to hear them often and occasionally catch a glimpse of one splashing into the water as I walk by. But it’s rare that one stops by for a photo op.


Check out the ears. Or should I say eardrums?


now_the_right_side rainy_day_visitor