Around here, spring is marked, among other things, by the renewal of nesting boxes, which are replaced or cleaned, and padded with fresh dry grass or leaves. My hens, excited by the end of their winter egg-laying break and the beginning of the new and fruitful season, are eagerly checking them out.
Read more about comfy nesting boxes in my latest Mother Earth News post:
“With some basic carpentry skills, you can easily build your own nesting boxes out of wood scraps, but even if you don’t know which way to hold a hammer, there are plenty of simple and cheap DIY solutions. Among them are 5-gallon buckets (resting on their side, obviously), old cat litter boxes, large plastic containers with the top cut off, and old re-purposed drawers and crates. The nesting boxes should be stable, so that they aren’t prone to falling even if the hens tend to shove each other, sheltered, and with a rim to prevent the eggs from falling.”
The pomegranate is a delicious fruit with many health benefits, but it can get really messy. When I want to treat my family to fresh, antioxidant-rich pomegranate juice, I seed and juice my pomegranates in the following easy, low-tech way:
1. Cut the pomegranates in half (as shown in the picture, bottom right).
2. Hold the pomegranate halves above a large bowl and seed. I do that by knocking on the outer peel with the handle of a heavy knife – a technique taught by my father-in-law. You can also just remove the seeds with your hands.
3. Once you have the bowl of pomegranate seeds (see picture, top right), mash them with something flat and heavy. I use a beer stein for this purpose – put it on top of the seeds in the bowl, bottom down, and press. The juice will flow.
4. Strain the juice by placing a strainer over a second bowl and pouring the contents of the first. Often, you will have residual juice after the first straining, so press some more.
The fresh pomegranate juice should be consumed as soon as possible so that its unique properties aren’t lost. It gives an antioxidant boost and is also an astringent, great for upset stomach and diarrhea.
The peels go on the compost pile and the remaining seed pulp to the chickens, who love it, so nothing is wasted!
I thought I’d post a couple of photos of the nice things we’ve been enjoying lately – plenty of sunshine, green grass for our birds to browse on, and flowers.
As you can see, our baby peafowl have grown quite a bit, but as peafowl generally don’t breed until two years of age (to the best of my knowledge), we don’t expect any egg-laying or breeding this season, though the male is becoming more colorful with each day.
The plant in the bottom right corner is actually a wild herb that sprang up in my garden quite unexpectedly. It smells wonderful, but I have no idea what it is. A guess, anyone?
In the upper right you can see a gorgeous desert view from a day trip we took. It lacks the lush greenery that can be seen in other parts of the country at this season, but I still find it majestically beautiful.
If you are fans of environmental science fiction, I hope you check out my new novel, The Last Outpost, now available both on Kindle and in print. It is set in Antarctica, with its theme being the precarious balance between man and nature. Also features a mysterious indigenous tribe, an outrageous government conspiracy, and ancient monsters sleeping under the ice.
From the blurb:
“Scott “Buck” Buckley, an environmental scientist, accepts the position of general overseer at the McMurdo Antarctic research station. After signing a secrecy declaration, Scott becomes privy to the existence of Geyser Valley, an area with a unique warm microclimate, which is home to the mysterious indigenous Anai people. In an outrageous conspiracy, the world governments are keeping the existence of these people a secret, to avoid limitations on the division of land for natural resources.
Scott is fascinated by the unique culture of the Anai, visiting them and learning from them as much as he can. In the meantime, the world becomes more and more unstable as global war is about to break out. Just before darkness sets over Antarctica, warfare tears the world apart, and the research station finds itself completely isolated for the long and sunless winter.
In the loneliness of the winter, Scott remains facing difficult questions all alone: who are the Anai, and how did they come to Antarctica? How much truth is there in their legends about giant ancient reptiles frozen in ice, waiting to come back to life? How is McMurdo going to hold on until the communications and supply lines are restored? And where are the limits one is not allowed to cross, not even in the name of survival?”
I’m also looking to hand out 5 review copies (in digital format), so if you are interested, please get in touch with me through the contact form. Thank you!
Strudel is one of my favorite kinds of pastry because it’s so versatile – basically, anything can go inside – and because, though it is made with white flour, the dough is plain and unsweetened, and the emphasis is on the filling, which can be as little sweetened as you choose. Here is my favorite recipe:
2 cups plain white flour
A pinch of salt
2 tbsp coconut oil or butter – I’m a huge fan of coconut oil, because I usually want to make all my desserts parve rather than dairy, but butter would work just as well.
Just enough water to make the dough into a pliable, elastic ball that can be easily rolled out.
The rolling out, very thin, is the secret of a good strudel – the dough gets all the delicious flavors of the filling.
Filling: there are literally a myriad of variations, but here is my favorite. In a bowl, combine 5-6 thinly sliced apples with raisins, chopped nuts, some ground coconut, and cinnamon. Sweeten as desired. I usually put in a spoonful or two of honey. You could also spread a thin layer of jam over the dough once it’s rolled out.
Roll out the dough, spread the filling evenly, and roll in. Be careful not to tear.
Carefully, transfer the rolled-up strudel to a tray lined with baking paper and brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle poppy seeds on top (optional). Put into oven on medium heat. Bake until the top is golden, which should take around 30-40 minutes.
Serve warm and enjoy with a nice cup of tea or coffee.