Bzzzz June 26th, 2007

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Aren’t these brand new baby bluebirds amazing!?! There are four. They hatched sometimes between yesterday morning and this morning.

Just are we are supposed to, we checked under the nest for blowfly larvae. No evidence that I could see. I declined to inspect the hatchlings because they are so very tiny, but as they get bigger, the experts say you should check under their wings and remove any parasites.

Here are some interesting facts from the Stokes Bluebird Book: The Complete Guide to Attracting Bluebirds by Donald & Lillian Stokes:

– The female lays about an egg a day until the full clutch is laid. She doesn’t start incubating the eggs until all the eggs are laid.

– Once the female begins incubation, she remains with the eggs nearly constantly, only taking short breaks for food.

– If something happens to the female, the male cannot take over the duties of incubating the eggs. The eggs die.

– The young will fledge within 16 to 23 days. So for us, that means they’ll be fledging between July 11 and July 18.

– We will stop monitoring the box when the birds get to be around 11 or 12 days old to prevent them from bolting from the box prematurely.

Other facts:

– Bluebird eggs incubate for 12 to 14 days and then stay in the nest for 16 to 21 days before they fledge.

– Even after they fledge, they depend on their parents for food for a couple of weeks.

Sadly, the Stokes say that the first few months of a bluebird’s life are the most difficult because of all the dangers and their extreme inexperience. They say that an estimated 50% of fledglings do not make it past the first few months. If they DO survive, they have a good chance of living to be two or three years old.

There don’t seem to be records of potential longevity, but they could, possibly, live to be 10 years old in the wild if they are very smart and very fortunate.

I certainly hope that Maryland bluebirds are smart and fortunate.

And by coincidence, I happened to pick up a book on my shelf today, The Laws of Nature: Excerpts from the Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and happened on this apropos quote:

When I bought my farm, I did not know what a bargain I had in the bluebirds, bobolinks, and thrushes; as little did I know what sublime mornings and sunsets I was buying.

Too true.

Ciao!

Posted In: Nature and Wildlife

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Bzzzz June 25th, 2007

I don’t believe that most people who meet me think first of a farm girl. So I’m particularly delighted to report on my latest farm girl activities–just to prove it IS so.

I started this weekend by starting my second batch of cheese. My first batch was neufchatel, strictly following the book’s recipe. This time I made the same recipe, but omitting the cream, making a lighter version of the cheese. Both are–if I say so myself–fabulous.

Benjamin and I have eaten all of the first batch ourselves. I mixed it with garlic and herbs from the garden and we have eaten it on crackers as snacks. The second batch will be used for an absolutely sinful Italian Creme cake in lieu of the cream cheese in the frosting. (I might even post the recipe–one of my favorites.)

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Home made neufchatel cheese

Who knew cheese making could be so easy?!? So far, at least, it seems to consist largely of having the right ingredients (starter, good milk or cream and various other things such as rennet), a REALLY clean kitchen and utensils (not a problem, as my mother-in-law has a favorite “out, out damn spot” joke about me) and waiting around, at which I happen to excel.

I bought the ingredients for creme fraiche today. I am also ordering more supplies from the New England Cheese Making Supply Company to make mozzarella and ricotta.

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Embarrassment of riches–farm girl style

Next, I was faced with an embarrassment of riches–a whole bunch of cucumbers. I considered (briefly) giving some away, since our little family of three couldn’t possibly eat them all since there are even more on the way. So I pulled out my latest book purchases from Barnes and Noble and found a new bread and butter pickle recipe. (I plan to post a review of book soon.)

I have made bread and butter pickles a couple of times before. The first time, I was in my twenties and was living in an un-air conditioned house in Norfolk, Virginia. I was DYING with the heat in the kitchen from the huge canning kettle and the gas stove. When I had finished, I had about 20 jars of pickles that I had originally planned to give as gifts and share.

Hah! After all the work of planting, growing and pickling, I DID NOT SHARE A SINGLE JAR. I ate them all myself!

Well, this time wasn’t so bad.

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Cucumbers and onions in pickling brine

I had the advantage of air conditioning and a mandolin grater this time that made the preparations so much more convenient and comfortable. In the end, I had about 10 jars of pickles. Will I share? Maybe. Just just a little. Even with a handy dandy Japanese mandolin grater and air conditioning, it’s still a lot of work!

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Bread and butter pickles

Finally, just to top off my farm girl report…

I was watering in the garden yesterday and what did I find? MY FIRST TOMATO OF THE SEASON!!!!

I have been a very avid fan of heirloom tomatoes. But this year I planted a couple of varieties of hybrid tomatoes, including Better Boy and Early Girl. And waddaya know? The Early Girl produced the first tomato.

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First tomato of the season, 2007

She’s not really all that impressive. Harry tried to put her in the salad last night and I objected STRENUOUSLY. Really, it would have gotten lost. I will eat her tomorrow from my hand with only a little salt for dressing.

Ciao!

Posted In: Canning and Preserving, Cheese Making, Gardening

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