This is one plant that I absolutely love to have around just for my chickens. Sambucus racemosa is a Pacific Northwest native shrub and is super easy to grow, thriving in all kinds of growing conditions (sun or shade, dry or moist soil, etc). Every bird within a mile radius knows when the elderberry fruit is ripe and comes for it. Most farmers will tell you that it will grow in pastures because livestock won’t eat it…because the stems and leaves are toxic and most animals know better than to eat it. It can actually become weedy, but it is easy to control and I don’t hesitate to cut it down entirely and let it regrow if it gets too big for the space it volunteered to grow in. The Sambucus genus’ edibililty factor varies from species to species. The red berries are edible if cooked but not nearly as sweet as other species and varieties- see these for sale: purple, blue golden etc.. Another benefit for this plant: the large white clusters of flowers are frequented by hummingbirds and butterflies!
I let several red elderberry shrubs grow in the larger animal’s sacrifice area behind the barn where the chickens have been hanging out when the fruit is ripe. This is a treat they can’t always reach so I give them a hand.
and our little call duck needs some too!
Do you have a plant that you love to grow just for your chickens?
I love this time of the year, not only because gardens are at their peak, but because it is when some of my favorite flowers are blooming AND we can eat them! It is also a great time to introduce children to the idea of eating flowers because they get so excited about it. In fact, I have to watch out because my kids will eat all of the flowers leaving none for me or the bees. They also have a fun time showing other kids when they come to visit.
Here is a list of other edible flowers/part and links to more info (from wikipedia):
Artichoke (flower bud)
Broccoli (flower buds)
Cauliflower (flower buds)
Caper (flower buds)
Chamomile (for tea)
Cannabis (flowers or buds)
Chives (flowers or buds)
Citrus blossoms (lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit)
Daisies (Bellis perennis quills)
Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale leaves, roots, flowers, petals, buds)
Daylilies (Hemerocallis buds, flowers, petals)
Elderflower (blossoms for drink)
Jasmine (for tea)
Nasturtium (blossoms and seeds)
Osmanthus fragrans (flower)
Pansies (Viola x Wittrockiana flowers, petals)
Pot Marigolds (Calendula officinalis petals with white heel removed)
Roses (Rosa petals with white heel removed, rose hips)
Sesbania grandiflora (flower)
Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus buds, petals, seeds)
Violet (‘leaf and flowers in salads, candied flowers for pastry decoration’)
Zucchini blossoms (blossoms)
Do you have a favorite edible flower?
A few words of caution: if you don’t know what a plant or flower is, or you don’t know if it is edible, do not to eat it. If you have allergies or medical problems, do your research. I often use this great site to check on the edibility rating of specific plants.
I’m really proud of myself for making something so pretty and delicious. This is a simplified recipe from a book I checked out from the library, and is super quick and easy to do if you are having a BBQ and need a quick side dish.
Sweet potatoes – sliced into 1/3- 1/2″ pieces
Onion- thinly sliced
Cheese – a crumbly mild one (I used feta)
Cilantro- fresh and finely chopped
Salt and Pepper
To prepare: Slice the sweet potatoes and brush with olive oil, then sprinkle on the salt and pepper and set aside. Slice the onions so they can be thrown on the grill too! Have cilantro, cheese and and lime ready.
To cook: Place the sweet potato on upper rack of the grill and let cook for about five minutes on both sides or until the BBQ marks are present. The onions only need half of that time so add then when you flip the potatoes. Also check to make sure the sweet potatoes are soft. Place potatoes and onions in a large shallow bowl then drizzle lime juice and toss. Then add cilantro and cheese on top! Easy peasy!
Recently I went on a garden tour extravaganza and was totally inspired! Stay tuned for several blog posts on that event… But one thing that I kept thinking is that I could never have my home on an actual tour- think of all the stress of making things just right so complete strangers can take pictures of it! I mean, really..would you not judge me for leaving weeds that stand taller than you? or letting my greens bolt (hey its for the bees and seeds), would you step in chicken shit? Probably! So, when I saw that NW Edible Life was doing a Nosy Neighbor Virtual Homestead & Garden Tour – I thought how brilliant! We can share pictures and be inspired by what everyone else is doing, without the stress of making everything perfect! So why not include my little homestead?
For some background and for specific details on my place check out the article written by Valerie Easton earlier this spring in the Seattle Times A sustainable Northwest garden of Eatin’ and Eden. Older photos are here & you can meet the animals here. I’ve incorporated edibles (mostly perennial) into all of the landscaping but grow specific annual edibles in a rabbit-proof area. We harvest rain water, use solar power for hot water, and just recently I started driving an electric car all in an effort to live more sustainably. My dream would be that someday we live self sufficiently, but for now we are a lo0nng way off and have a lot of work ahead.
One advantage about our location is that we have a lot of space, but on the other hand it takes time to develop and manage. In ten years we’ve barely cultivated half of the space that we want to. One disadvantage is that we work in the green industry which means during the growing season our work week can be 60+hours and our garden can get a bit neglected.
Goals for the future: build a root cellar, a PV solar system, get dairy goats and have time to milk them, then move to a farm in the San Juans and live completely off the grid. Ha! I can dream right?
Now for some photos:
Several years ago one of my design clients offered me some white alpine strawberries (Frageria vesca var. albocarpa) from her garden. These small creamy white berries have a distinct taste, much like the candy Sweetarts. She told me wild birds don’t bother with them since they are white and look unripe to wildlife. Since then, I have been on the hunt for these little babies to grow in my own garden. So this spring I found them, both as seed and in 4″ pots, so I tried both. The seeds were a limited success – inconsistent germination, but I got a couple of nice healthy plants growing. The 4″ pots were pricy but are thriving and have been fruiting non-stop since late spring. These plants produce runners unlike some other alpine strawberries making it a great groundcover, but prefer the soil on the moist side, so they are not recommended for hot regions.
This spring we decided to grow our food – not only in the way of plants, but animals. Edible pets so to speak – as Novella Carpenter puts it. We grew two turkeys which would be ready for the annual celebration of Thanksgiving this November 25th 2010 which also happens to be my husbands birthday. From April to November we have been blessed with 2 enormous, interesting birds on our little farm who will now provide nourishing food for our family and friends.
Why? We have the room and we have the means and we feel it is best to teach our children where their food comes from while having a hand in helping to raise their food. We didn’t want to buy a plastic wrapped bird from the pile in the grocery store not knowing where it came from, how long it has been bagged or frozen and how it was raised. Even most of the “free range” or “organic” birds are mass produced in factory farms and why not raise the birds on our family farm? We have yet to “harvest” our chickens as they are valuable garden helpers and provide food without slaughter, but we are not exactly strangers to harvesting meat. We harvest fish and shellfish in both fresh and salt water on an annual basis. My first experience of seeing a large animal butchered was around 7 years old. Our neighbors raised a calf to butcher and I had no idea that its fate would hang before me as dinner, not understanding that was where my hamburgers came from. The end of that cow’s life -his name was Jackson by the way, left me slightly traumatized because no one explained the process to me, nor did I expect it to happen. I was actually vegetarian for many years – until my first pregnancy.. when some strange primal instinct made me crave meat to the point where I thought I would die, and I haven’t gone back. I completely respect the conviction and lifestyle of choosing not to eat meat or animal by products – I’d say half the people I know and love are vegetarian, vegan or raw. We love animals and they are a huge part our lives – I choose to eat meat, but want to know that the animal was treated with respect and didn’t suffer during their lives – our turkeys were treated life royal poultry.
Before the slaughter, I did my research and made sure that we’d do it in the most humane and quick way possible. Blogs like this one, and videos like this were and helpful and graphic in seeing the process before hand. There are several homesteading blogs out there with stories of how they did it wrong and the animal suffered, which is awful. We have a great guy, Fernando helping us who is the experienced son of a butcher and for that he will keep one of the birds. We wanted to learn how to do it a)correctly and b)as quick and humanely as possible, and hope to learn how to do it on our own for next year. It went very quickly and the birds weren’t scared at all, which was important to me.
I am an emotional creature and always cry, happy or sad. I have even been known to cry when evaluating a hazardous tree that must come down – as an arborist, I try to be as professional as possible but haven’t become insensitive and heartless with any life – woody or flesh. We use plants and animals for many reasons and these turkeys were raised with the intention of being our food. I am so grateful for them and what we learned – their lives were not in vain and they lived amazing lives for turkeys – always eating, frolicking in the pasture with other animals, or mating. Yes – they were always busy getting it on!
Some things we learned are this:
Turkeys are beautiful and interesting animals – but don’t have nearly as much personality as other animals we keep on the farm. The female was sweet and the male was… well, typical I guess for what you’d expect from a large male bird. Many people were afraid of him.
Turkeys take just as much work as chickens but need more room (in the pasture) with bigger, stinkier manure
Turkeys are LOUD and their gobbles and singing could be heard way down the street. Our neighbors actually grumbled about it last week.
There is no cost savings in raising turkeys compared to buying it from the grocery store – infact it costs much more, they were pretty expensive to feed. Our estimate is they cost about $100-150 each to raise.
Butchering and dressing the turkeys was a lot of work. It took four of us about 3 hours, but would have probably been easier if it wasn’t 20 degrees outside.
The male was THIRTY pounds – that is a lot of bird! We had to buy new cooking apparatus and it takes two people to handle. Next time – we will have a better diet plan and maybe monitor their weight.
I’m looking forward to the difference in taste – our bird was never frozen, we brined him overnight in an herb recipe and then into the oven to cook for nearly 6 hours at 325 degrees. In the meantime we are preparing the rest of the meal with some food from our garden, and even some from a member of the urban farm co-op in Seattle – the mashed potatoes are being cooked with heirloom Ozark potatoes.
We have a turkey hen who just recently started laying eggs. The eggs are a bit larger than the chicken eggs and have a distinct brown spotting. The yolks are also a bit larger, but the interesting difference is the shell and membrane are much denser, making your quick egg cracking maneuver on the side of the bowl, one of much more force. But other than that it is not too much different in taste. We made some scrambled turkey eggs and chicken eggs side by side this morning and couldn’t taste a difference.
So, why don’t we see more turkey eggs for sale? A chicken hen will average laying about 300 eggs per year, while a turkey hen may only lay 100-115 and only within a specific period of 28-30 weeks. Most turkey eggs are used to incubate and grow new turkeys. McMurray hatchery sells a dozen turkey eggs for close to $60! For that price maybe I should be selling ours too! Supposedly turkeys are great brooders and will sit on their eggs, but that has not been our experience yet. The eggs take 28 days to hatch and turkey poults look very similar to baby chicks. Thy have been just as fun to raise… well..that is, other than one big mishap.
Some fun turkey facts:
Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin ate turkey in foil packets for their first meal on the moon.
Turkeys’ heads change colors when they become excited.
Adult turkeys can have 3,500 feathers. Most turkey feathers are composted. Feathers are spread out on fields, then plowed under in the spring. The feathers decompose and fertilize the soil.
Turkeys can see movement almost a hundred yards away.
Toms grow a beard (long black feathers) in the middle of the chest (breast). Very few hens grow a beard.
Ben Franklin thought the North American wild turkey should be the national bird (rather than the Bald Eagle)
Wild turkeys can glide as far as a mile without flapping their wings. They can fly for short distances up to 88 km/hr (55 miles/hour). Wild turkeys can run 29 km/hr (18 miles/hour).
(facts courtesy of Sackschools.ca)
Fall is my favorite time to cook and experiment with new (and old) recipes!
When I was 5 years old, my mother married a Moroccan man who played professional soccer in France, and came from a Muslim family in Casablanca. He spoke Arabic and French, but barely knew simple phrases in English at the time; he learned a lot from us and we learned a lot from him. One thing was this delicious meal! We used to eat mountains of this couscous stew- the recipe of my stepfather’s mother…
Moroccan stew with Couscous
Serves 10-12 people
Use a Couscous pot or large stew pot with a smaller steamer pot (with bottom holes) that fits on top:
· Couscous – approx 5 cups from a bulk supplier or 4-5 boxes (Near East or other brand)
· Meat – approx 6 cups of stew meat cut into cubes (meat can be substituted: lamb, chicken or beef preferred)
· 4-5 large carrots, peeled and cut in large chunks
· 2 turnips peeled and chopped into large chunks
· 1 bunch parsley chopped
· 4 zucchini cut in large chunks
· 1 Large yellow squash -cut into cubes
· 4 large tomatoes, sliced in large chunks
· 1 cup garbanzo beans
· 1 can tomato paste
· Salt 1/4 cup to be used in 3 cups water solution for couscous
· Marjoram 1 tsp
` Oregano 1tsp
· Olive oil – approx ½ cup
Boil water with meat and 1tsp salt, with carrot chunks, spices, chopped parsley and turnips.
In a large bowl mix couscous and sprinkle salt water into couscous with hands to moisten, add couscous mix to top steamer pan.
Every 15 minutes remove couscous back to bowl and mix couscous with more salt water and return to steamer pan.
Chop tomatoes, zucchini and yellow squash and add garbanzo beans in a separate strainer and hold to add to stew.
After 30 minutes add large tomatoes, zucchini, squash and garbanzo beans. Mix in tomato paste
Every 15 minutes continue to remove couscous back to bowl and mix couscous with more salt water and return to steamer pan. After second 30 minutes remove couscous to large bowl, (couscous should be fluffy and will lump together) – add olive oil to separate grains by mixing with fork or hands until well separated.
Serve as stew over couscous, – spoon large amount of couscous in the middle of the plate, clear a small depression in the middle, and spoon stew mixture in depression with the liquid poured over the couscous. The juices will soak into the couscous. YUM!
Earlier this year I designed a wine bottle bed for the 2010 Northwest Flower and Garden Show display we created in partnership with Seattle Tilth. After the garden show I moved it into a spot in our garden and grew our very first RIPE pepper, before any of our tomatoes ripened!!!
The idea is simple: the sunlight warms up the air inside the glass and expands. The heated air is pushed through the bottle neck into the soil warming it, and the plant growing in the soil.
Because of the limited size of the garden show display we made it small and in a circle large enough for one plant. This concept can be used for any size bed – just keep in mind the size or length of your bottles, which can be valuable growing space.
Follow these steps:
- collect bottles (wine, beer or soda) that is the fun part!
- place in an area for raised bed(s)
- concrete the necks, one row at a time – leaving the necks open for air movement (we used half cobb in this mixture)
- stack at least 3 bottles high
- fill with good growing soil
- plant inside of the raised bed a plant that thrives off of heat (peppers, tomatoes, melons, etc)
This is a great way to grow warmth loving crops that don’t normally thrive in a limited growing season. Here in the Pacific Northwest I live in one of those cold microclimates that is nearly one month behind the warmer maritime microclimates of Seattle. I plan to build many more of these, and much larger… so, I’d better get to emptying those bottles!