Singing the Real Estate Blues

When we moved to our farm, we were greeted by Eastern bluebirds, who perched on the wire fences on both sides of our driveway.  One pair started making their nest in the eve of the barn but after careful consideration opted for another place to nest.  They probably figured that out after the first downpour and looked for a slightly used woodpecker hole nearby. Perhaps they were new parents.

We decided this year (1st of March) to put up bluebird nesting boxes in hopes of giving our lovely neighbors homes of their own that would be ideal locations for them.  I never realized what particular home shoppers bluebirds can be.  I’ve observed several pairs going in and out of the four nesting boxes, checking out everything and seemingly not settling on any one of them….yet.

One nesting box that a friend gave me for my birthday last year has a living roof…so cute and apparently tasty as the squirrels have eaten most of it this winter.  I placed it on the corner post of our deck thinking that the little wren who sings his heart out everyday for me on that post might be interested in getting hitched since he could present his bride with this solid home in his favorite hangout.

"I'm thinking, I'm thinking…do I really need a living roof?"

“I’m thinking, I’m thinking…do I really need a living roof?”

Alas, the bluebirds found it and have been considering it and shooing away every other bird who even looks in that direction.  Mind you it is not an ideal place for the Eastern bluebirds who prefer open meadows where they can scan for insects (up to 60 feet) and to top it off, these colorful crazy bluebirds are constantly peering in our house as if they are considering it as well.  I will look up and there are four beady eyes looking at me.  Its like they have sticky feet adhered to our windows. If they weren’t so pretty I might think about a restraining order for stalking.

I know the male is supposed to wave around some nesting material then head on in and the female is suppose to follow and the deed is as good as signed but I haven’t noticed this.  What I have observed is both male and female enter at one point or another while the other watches closely for troublemakers.  This goes on for a couple of hours then nothing.  Later on another couple comes and does the dance.  I can tell them it won’t suit them because of all the human activity going in and out onto the deck but I don’t think they want my opinion.

Mr. Bluebird checks out the real-estate while the Mrs. waits in anxious anticipation

Mr. Bluebird checks out the real-estate while the Mrs. waits in anxious anticipation

My hope is that bluebirds will fill all the bluebird houses that we have put up for them and many happy bluebird children will enjoy our farm as much as we do…  and if they eat a multitude of Japanese and cucumber beetles (or any other problematic bug) in the process, well that wouldn’t hurt my feelings.

"Well?  How's it look?"

“Well? How’s it look?”

"This door is a little snug"

“This door is a little snug”

"But, is it in the right neighborhood, what's the bug population here?"

“But, is it in the right neighborhood, what’s the bug population here?”

 Cool Facts from Cornell Lab of Ornithology

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/eastern_bluebird/lifehistory

  • The male Eastern Bluebird displays at his nest cavity to attract a female. He brings nest material to the hole, goes in and out, and waves his wings while perched above it. That is pretty much his contribution to nest building; only the female Eastern Bluebird builds the nest and incubates the eggs.
  • Eastern Bluebirds typically have more than one successful brood per year. Young produced in early nests usually leave their parents in summer, but young from later nests frequently stay with their parents over the winter.
  • Eastern Bluebirds occur across eastern North America and south as far as Nicaragua. Birds that live farther north and in the west of the range tend to lay more eggs than eastern and southern birds.
  • Eastern Bluebirds eat mostly insects, wild fruit and berries. Occasionally, Eastern Bluebirds have also been observed capturing and eating larger prey items such as shrews, salamanders, snakes, lizards and tree frogs.
  • The oldest recorded Eastern Bluebird was 10 years 5 months old.
  • Nesting Facts
  • Clutch Size
  • 2–7 eggs
  • Number of Broods
  • 1-3 broods
  • Egg Length
  • 0.7–0.9 in
  • 1.8–2.4 cm
  • Egg Width
  • 0.6–0.7 in
  • 1.5–1.9 cm
  • Incubation Period
  • 11–19 days
  • Nestling Period
  • 17–21 days
  • Egg Description
  • Pale blue or, rarely, white.
  • Condition at Hatching
  • Naked except for sparse tufts of dingy gray down, eyes closed, clumsy.

Pesto Party with the Nashville Herb Society

Partied with the ladies from the Nashville Herb Society, culinary division last night.  Our topic was pesto and as someone on Facebook pointed out already it is a yummy subject.

My friend Jodie assisted by rinsing and spinning herbs and washing the food processor in between pesto demonstrations, selling books and anything else that needed doing…huge help!

Thank you to our wonderful hosts Mary and Edith for arranging a commercial kitchen big enough so that everyone could be in close range to observe every step, smell the amazing aromas and ask questions while I whirred away.

We talked pesto beginnings in Genoa, Italy where pesto started.  Traditionally made from fresh sweet basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and sheep’s cheese during the garden season.

‘Pesto’ comes from the pestle, a hand held tool with a rounded end that is used to pound or mash herbs in a stone (marble or other materials) bowl or mortar (vessel).

 

These days to save time we use a food processor

or blender with a ‘pulse’ setting to whip up pesto presto because after all we are all in a hurry to get it done.

Just for fun I set up a large mortar with a pestle so that folks could try making pesto the old school way.  We started with some course sea salt to give a

base for grinding (this would be the time to add a few peppercorns as well).  Added small chunks of garlic, walnuts, basil leaves and had everyone take turns grinding and mashing. Adding more of each ingredient as we went along.  Olive oil is added along the way a little at a time. Towards the end throw in some shredded Parmesan cheese, mix it all up and viola, pesto the way the Italians make it… a fun project for kids who want to help in the kitchen.

I love to keep a big mortar and pestle sitting out in my kitchen with something in it to grind.  People walk into my kitchen and are naturally drawn to it for some reason and before long they pick up the pestle and mash away.  Oats, wheat berries, seeds; cinnamon sticks and the like are usual suspects for some pestle work.  It is great therapy and you get flour or powdered spices – give it a try.

People are usually surprised that pesto can be made using other ingredients.  Believe it or not pesto can be made from a just about anything edible growing in the garden.  The variations to pesto are only limited by your imagination!

Here are some that we made last night:  Remember to wash and dry all leaves (salad spinner) that are going into pesto.  Think ahead and wash herbs and such the easy way while they are still on the plant by spraying with hose attachment set on shower.  Spray undersides of leaves as well first thing in morning and when the sun dries them off cut what you need.  Now you have freshly washed and dried leaves to make pesto with.

In the food processer always start with the hard things like garlic and nuts – pulse a couple of times then add herbs or veggie, pulse again then add olive oil (I like extra virgin) while pulsing until it is the consistency you want.  Open the lid from time to time to scrap any large chunks on the side back down so it can get processed.  Add cheese, salt and pepper if you like and pulse for the last time.  Done.

Store pesto in a small glass container or jar with a tight fitting lid to keep air out.  You can add a thin layer of oil on top if you want before storing in the refrigerator.  It will keep for about 3 weeks in fridge or freeze it in ice cube trays and pop into freezer bag.  Plop cubes into soups and sauces or on pasta when needed.

 

Savory Sage Pesto

2 cloves garlic with skin removed

1/3 -1/2 cup walnuts

½ cup sage leaves

1 cup parsley

1/3 to ½ cup Olive Oil

1/3 to ½ cup asiago, romano or parmesan cheese

 

Swiss Chard and Cilantro

2 cloves garlic, skin peeled

1/3-1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds or nuts

1 – 2 cup swiss chard leaves torn with center stem removed if tough

½ cup cilantro or a little more if you like cilantro

1 Jalapeno, seeded and chunked

½ lime squeezed (juice)

1/3- ½ olive oil

1/3 cup parmesan or asiago or romano cheese

 

Chocolate Mint – Dessert Pesto

Great with fresh strawberries or thin it down with fruit juice and pour over fruit salad.

2 cup chocolate mint leaves

2 Tablespoon sugar or honey or 2 fresh stevia leaves

1/3 cup almonds

1/3 – ½ cup olive oil or try using fruit juice

1/3 cup parmesan cheese

 

 

 

Thank you Ladies for a wonderful evening….party on making pesto from your garden!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Franklin Farmer’s Market

It’s like going home to visit the family farm every Saturday morning.  Bring the kids and even your WELL BEHAVED dog.  There is something for everyone in the family from 8am to 1pm behind The Factory in Franklin, TN

Be prepared to spend some time and money because these farmers are working hard and get up at the crack to bring the best produce to Franklin just for you.  Plus you are going to run into old friends you haven’t seen in years and it is fun to catch up.

Fill up your cloth shopping bags with seasonal vegetables, fruit, farm fresh eggs, meats, cheeses, milk and those oh so wonderful baked goods…yum.  Stroll through the rows of vendors and be amazed at how many great things are available.

From art to soap to plants to jewelry to canned goods to maple syrup…and on and on and on until you get to the fresh cut flowers – beautiful and irresistible, I know this personally.

Once you’ve covered half or so, sit a spell with an out of this world all natural personal cheese cake and a glass of organic ice tea from Lucy’s Kitchen

or a breakfast crepe from Rebecca’s Crepes while you listen to live music.  You can watch this family of crepe makers build your crepe which adds to the fun.

Now you are ready to visit and shop with the other half of the vendors, pick up a few more foodstuffs to get you through the week.  On your way out don’t forget to pick up your box of organic produce from Delvin’s Farm…the one they were so kind to hold with your name on it so you didn’t have to carry it around with you.  Look at the amount and the variety of produce that Ruthie Mayhew is about to take home – it’s no wonder she looks so happy!

I grow lots of produce in my own kitchen garden but I always find I need just a few more things to get me through till next Saturday like the lima beans and smiles from Norton Family Farm, and grass fed beef from Rocky Glade Farm.  Oh and if you haven’t signed up for Julie Vaughn’s newsletter do it today.  She writes stories of real farm life that will warm your heart and make you laugh out loud.  www.rockygladefarm.com.

Bloomsbury Farm has wheatgrass and just look at those colorful tomatoes!

A trip wouldn’t be complete without a loaf of bread and some Hatcher Dairy milk.

A Big Thanks and virtual Hug to all the local farmers in our community who work so hard so we don’t have to and provide everything we need close by.

If you live near Franklin, TN and haven’t been or been lately to the Franklin Farmer’s market…roll by this coming Saturday.  You will be glad you did.

More info? http://www.franklinfarmersmarket.com/