Category Archives: Urban Homesteading

Green Eggs and Ham

“That’s not how my school made green eggs and ham,” Little Bird was quick to point out. No, probably not.

We had ham leftover from Thanksgiving. And the basil she planted from seeds from a Mother’s Day fundraiser at Green Acre is still going strong, so we made a hand-chopped pesto and served it over fresh eggs and the leftover ham.

green eggs and ham

Little Bird was happy to cut some of her basil.

cutting the basil she planted from seed

Our youngest hens have just started laying.

backyard eggs

I wanted to try hand-chopping the pesto. I saw someone in Italy do that once on a show several years ago. I used a curved knife and chopped the dry ingredients first and then stirred in the olive oil. The ingredients were the same as from my pesto recipe here.

hand-chopped pesto

To make a more complete dinner, we ended up eating all of this over spaghetti. And we added avocado, because, well, we eat avocado at almost every meal!

New Baby Birds: Guinea Keets!

Our backyard birds are expanding with Guinea fowl! In addition to our eleven chicken hens and chicks, we now have three brand new Guinea babies (called “keets.”) They arrived in the mail, only a day or two old. As you can see, they are about as cute as can be.

 guinea keet

What are Guinea fowl?

Purely Poultry, from whom we purchased the keets, explain: “Guinea fowl are native to Africa. They are known as pest controllers and wonderful backyard guard birds due to their loud noises and wild behavior. They make a great addition to the backyard flock if you are looking for a tick and bug eater and a clown like character to enjoy.”

Why Have Guinea Fowl?

Papa Bird was most interested in having them protect our “Little Birds” (human) and birds from rattlesnakes. Here are 5 more reasons from Guinea Fowl: Your Overlooked Backyard Buddy – Modern Farmer:

5 Reasons To Have Guineas

1. Watchdogs. Guineas do a great job at guarding your property, sounding a halting alarm when something unfamiliar approaches. Hawk, hawk, hawk!

2. Nutritious eggs and meat. Unlike chickens, who produce eggs throughout the year, guineas typically lay large a couple of times a year. Don’t let their tiny size get you down (two guinea eggs equals one large chicken egg) The flavor is more delicate. Guinea meat is darker and richer than chicken, with less fat and lower cholesterol, and considered a delicacy in Europe and some trendy American restaurants.

3. Sustainable Living. These low-maintenance birds helpfully protect other farm animals and are free from poultry diseases that are troublesome to most farmers. Their nutrient-rich manure can be composted and used in the garden.

4. Pest Control. Working as a team, guineas will eat any pest they can get their beaks on, but unlike chickens, do so without tearing and scratching up your garden. Since they free-range, they will hunt ticks (or beetles, fleas, grasshoppers, crickets, snakes) all over your property. They are a more natural option to control the insect pest population than pesticides.

5. Entertainment. What great personalities! What beautiful plumage! What strange looking feathers! You can see them in colors ranging from pearl grey to lavender, royal purple and blue. They’re very curious and fun to watch.

guinea keetHow Do Guineas Help Control Pests?

The University of Maine has a nice article regarding how to use Guinea fowl for insect control.

How Can I Learn More about How to Care for Guinea Fowl?

Check out the Guinea Fowl International Association‘s website.

Where can you get Guinea Keets like ours?

Check out Guinea Keets for Sale. We have three Royal Purple Guinea Keets, purchased from here. We are not affiliates, or profiting in any way by recommending them. Just passing on the info of where we found them!

Want to See What They Look Like When They Grow Up?

Subscribe to Baby Birds Farm and I’ll be sure to update on their growth!

Apple Wood Smoked Salmon from the Master (and Father’s Day Gift Ideas)

If you have seen the post on home smoked salmon, then you might remember my Uncle Bobby was the inspiration and originator of smoking salmon on the PK Arkansas Cooker (aka the “Bobby Grill.”) He recently sent me a picture of three pounds of apple wood smoked salmon.

Apple Wood Smoked Salmon

Yum, right?

He shared, “Twenty minutes soaking in rum, four hours curing in salt & brown sugar, thirty minutes cooking in apple wood smoke, three weeks eating.” Bobby added his latest tweak for perfecting home smoked salmon: “I buy these large three-pound fillets which have fat parts and skinny parts. I separate them with a knife (that’s why there are four pieces) and the skinny parts smoke for twenty minutes and the fat part for thirty.” Papa Bird prefers the skinny parts. Although a large piece of salmon was pretty in this post, the skinny fillets get more of the rub and smoke flavor. But, could be personal preference…

You can read the full details of how to smoke salmon here. And with Father’s Day around the corner (June 21st), is there a grill master in your life that might enjoy a classic 50’s style grill/smoker that does both indirect and direct cooking? (Note, I am not affiliated in any way with the grill maker. I do receive small percentages of purchases on Amazon, but since they have literally millions of products, be confident that I only mention ones I truly recommend.)


7 Ways to Celebrate Strawberry Season

To celebrate Papa Bird’s birthday this year, the four of us went strawberry picking again. Strawberries are in peak season and are super sweet. We picked a flat of strawberries and enjoyed them every which way in the week that followed. Here is a round-up of ways to celebrate strawberry season.

organic u-pick strawberries from suisie's farm

First: Go strawberry picking!

strawberry picking at suzie's farm

Susie’s Farm is still our favorite place to pick. The berries are organic and a super sweet variety (Albion.) The above flat was $36. We also met up with some of Little Bird’s friends since she was a little baby. My mama tribe has such a close place in my heart. We are all so busy these days, so it was nice to reconnect with a few.

My heart just about melted seeing Little Bird running with two of her friends… and “Littler Bird” chasing after them.

2. Strawberry, Dark Chocolate and Brie Grilled Cheese

strawberry, dark chocolate and brie grilled cheese

Melt a little butter on a griddle or pan, add bread layered with thick slices of brie cheese, sliced strawberries, and shaved dark chocolate. Top with another piece of bread, flip and enjoy the messy, gooey, tangy warmth.

 

3. Strawberry Balsamic Pizza

strawberry balsamic pizza

The farm stand at Suzie’s had par-baked flatbread from Sadie Rose, which made me think semi-homemade pizza would be an easy dinner. I didn’t yet have the strawberry jam made, but inspired by the recipe in the link, I cooked down a cup of ripe strawberries, balsamic vinegar and sriracha for the sauce. Yum!

4. Top and fill a cake with strawberries

chocolate cake with strawberries

Little Bird loves baking as much as me. For Papa Bird’s birthday we made a chocolate sponge cake with chocolate orange buttercream frosting. Can you guess how old he turned? The filling was strawberry jam and whipped cream. Other cakes just begging for strawberries: Baby Bird’s Healthy Smash Cake, and Tres Leches.

5. Strawberry Shortcake and (healthier) Chia Strawberry Shortcake Parfait

Chia Strawberry Shortcake Parfait with Very Vanilla Pudding

We took slightly sugared, sliced strawberries up to my sister’s along with shortcakes and cream. It was easy to assemble traditional strawberry shortcakes and a sweet way to celebrate my niece’s birthday.

For a slightly healthier take, try this parfait version which features vanilla chia pudding. If you are mindful of the sugar you add, it easily doubles as both breakfast and dessert.

 

 

6. low-sugar strawberry jam

canning strawberry jamSugar helps fruit break down and get softer, but is not necessary for preserving. If you cook the fruit long enough, it will still get soft. You can also use honey, or another sweetener. Pectin isn’t needed, either! Using super sweet berries, all you need is a little lemon juice. This year I overcame my fear of my steam canner, and canned for the first time.

7. green strawberry pickles

green strawberry picklesIf you love the idea of adding home-fermented foods to your diet, green strawberry pickles are an easy way to start. My kids like them, too.

Here’s a bonus way to try them: Strawberry Salmon Salad with Green Strawberry Pickles.

Canning the pickles and jam is a classic way to extend strawberry season. Having produce preserved is a great way to enjoy produce at its peak all year round.

How do you like to enjoy strawberry season?

Please share your ideas and link your recipes in the comments!

 

Honey-Sweetened Meyer Lemon Curd

Our citrus tree is bursting with Meyer lemons. Baby Bird, who is 14-months-old and walking, loved picking the lemons. Meyer lemons are sweet and juicy and made a great lemon curd.

honey sweetened meyer lemon curd

baby bird picking meyer lemonsI have been trying to feed us less refined sugar this year. I find that our taste buds are slowly adjusting. For example, my husband and I don’t sweeten our coffee anymore. Meyer lemons are naturally sweeter than a conventional lemon. This recipe came out delicious sweetened with just honey, and I used a fraction of the amount of sweeteners other curd recipes use.

honey sweetened meyer lemon curd over blueberry pancakes

Little Bird is 3-years-old now and is quite the pro in the kitchen. She loves cooking projects. She loves to taste all of the ingredients, but at one point I had to pull the honey away from her. I think she ate half the container. (So much for limiting our sugar!) The lemon curd was perfect over Papa Bird’s famous gluten-free blueberry pancakes. I also used it to make a quick lemon-meringue tart with a (gluten-free) cashew/almond crust. Since my curd uses only egg yolks, a meringue was a perfect way to use up all of the whites.

Honey-Sweetened Meyer Lemon Curd
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 3.5 cups
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
This version of a classic lemon curd uses honey to sweeten. I used grass-fed butter, but it could also be made with coconut oil for a vegan version. I recommend using organic citrus anytime you are using the zest or peel.
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (from approx. 5-6 lemons)
  • 1 cup lemon juice (the juice of approx. 5-6 lemons)
  • 8 oz butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup honey
  • 8 egg yolks
Instructions
  1. Rinse the lemons and use a microplane to grate the zest of the lemons. Set aside.
  2. Juice the lemons until you have about 1 cup of juice. Set aside.
  3. Place water in a 2 quart saucepan on the stove and bring to a boil. Place a double boiler or bowl on top of it.
  4. While the water is coming to a boil, place the butter in the bowl of a mixer. Beat until light and fluffy. Add the honey and beat well. Then add the egg yolks one at a time and mix in. Then slowly add in the lemon juice. It is okay if it is not totally smooth in the mixer, because the butter will melt in the next step.
  5. Pour the mixture into the top of the double boiler or the bowl over the pot. Occasionally, stir gently with a heat proof spatula. Heat the mixture until it comes up to 170*F. At that point it should be smooth but not necessarily thick.
  6. Pour into jars for canning, a crust for a meringue, or store in the fridge. Allow to cool completely. It will thicken as it cools.
  7. Keeps in the fridge for 1 week and freezes well.
Notes
From this size recipe, I used two cups of the curd in a tart/lemon meringue pie and used the remaining 3 pints as curd. If you want a super smooth texture, strain the curd after taking it off the heat to remove the zest. I left it in and liked it.

meyer lemon curd ingredientsGet all of the ingredients for this recipe ready ahead of time and then it will be easy to throw together. Just watch out for three-year-old honey swipers!

No fancy equipment is required, but a kitchen-aid mixer helps get a creamy texture and a microplane make zesting citrus much easier. A double-boiler let me not worry about scorching the bottom while it cooked and a thermometer let me know exactly when to take the curd off the heat.

Click here to pin this recipe on Pinterest.

Honey-Sweetened Meyer Lemon Curd from @BabyBirdsFarm

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