On our way back from lunch the other day, we saw smoke billowing into the sky. We live on the northern limit of Vancouver, so everything is south of us, including all lunch places. Thus, we were driving north back from lunch and the smoke was north of us. OK, fine. But then we turned onto our cross-street (the one that runs north-south along the eastern boundary of our property) and noticed that the smoke was dead ahead. So was our house.
I said, “Gee, that’s a big fire and it must be close to our house!” As we drove closer I said, “Holy cow! We put the dogs outside, right? That could be our house on fire!” Brian agreed. The closer we got, the more it looked like it could be right on or right next to our house. All I could think was that if it really was our house, at least the dogs and chickens were probably safe because the grass is so wet from all the rain we’ve been having. Then, suddenly our house came into view and the smoke was still further north – but only three or four hundred yards!
We could see cars were slowing down and gathering just past the turn off to our street. So, like good little lookyloos, we decided to drive past our street to see what was on fire. I mean, after all – it was REALLY close… what if we needed to evacuate?
Heading north, it goes: our house, our neighbors’ house, our turn-off, two more lots, intersection, FIRE. When we got to the fire, we saw that it was a house COMPLETELY engulfed in flames. It looked like something out of a movie… two stories were being quickly consumed by a raging fire. When we got close to it, my driver’s-side window felt hot. And then we saw this:
Well, at least there was no real emergency. Apparently someone had donated this old, rundown house to the fire department. I had no idea they did things like that. It was a HUGE fire. And it appeared that they were letting people watch! So, naturally, we drove home, grabbed the camera, and walked back up to the fire. Sadly, by the time we got there, it was only a shadow of its former self. Still, I got some OK shots.
It is pretty amazing at how quickly and effectively the fire consumed that house. It really was two full stories when we first got to it. In the ten or so minutes that it took us to get back there with the camera, it was reduced to two walls and some sticks. It’s cool that the fire department gets to practice on the real thing, though.
Buried behind a wall of trees and stuck in between two old, diseased, ugly junipers in our front yard was an old wooden bench. Over this past weekend, Brian finally removed the nasty junipers and rescued the bench. I expected it to be pretty rotten, but really it’s in pretty good shape. So, we moved it over by the chicken coop so that we can have somewhere proper to sit when we are hanging with them during their free-ranging sessions. I plan to paint it whenever I get to painting the entire shed and post and egg doors. Anyway, we put it there and guess who jumped right on it? Some things never change.
For those of you who haven’t been following us from the beginning, you should know that Lady B and Daisy Mae have forever been our trusty adventurers. They were the first to jump on the baby perch, the first to use the ramps to climb higher in the coop, the first to walk along the perch bar in front of the nesting boxes like a balance beam, the first to use the highest of high perches, the first to jump out of the chicken area of the coop into the human area… you get the point. And now, true to themselves, they have been the first and only two chickens to jump on the bench and climb all over it.
Other than that, there’s not much to note. They seem to have truly figured out their new waterers now, which makes me happy. The thing still leaks, which does not make me happy. But, we have given up trying to stop the leaking, and instead I rigged a little dish below the leak that catches the drips and they can drink them. It seems to work fine, though of course they had the dish filled with poop and shavings before the end of the first day it was in there. It made me all the happier to have the cup waterers in place. They save so much space and are so much cleaner and more efficient.
Also, they now seem to like scratch. Scratch is what chicken people call a mixture of whole and cracked grains that are generally used as a treat for chickens. It is not a complete feed and has a high starch content and so can make them fat and lazy if they are fed too much. However, they LOVE it and and it is often used to lure chickens into doing what you want… like come back into the coop or scratch around in the shavings to mix them up, etc. And until this week, my chickens completely ignored scratch. I bought some, tossed it out for them and they acted like I was throwing tiny missles of death at them. They ran screaming from it and refused to eat it. I tried this a few times over a few weeks and I finally had decided that my chickens were just weird. Then I tried one last time over the weekend… and whaddya know? They loved it! I guess we’re on this learning adventure together, my chickens and I.
Originally, I couldn’t decide between a food blog, a gardening blog, or a chicken blog. I settled on the chicken blog because I thought it would fun to document my journey into the world of chickens from scratch. At the beginning of this blog, I had only read books and websites and talked to people with chicken experience. I had none myself. Well, so then I planned to start a separate garden blog to document our building our veggie gardens and landscaping around our new home. But that never happened. Between working all day and caring for the dogs and chickens and working on the gardens and yard, I hardly had any time to do the chicken blog, let alone another one. But then I thought… aren’t these things all tied together? Chickens and gardens and food? Chickens provide us with food (eggs) and they ARE food (once I get up the guts to get meat birds). Gardens provide us with food. And so why not include all of it in one blog?
Until now, I hadn’t bothered to take pictures of my cooking, so I haven’t done any food entries, but there’s a first time for everything. I apologize now for not having the fine art of food-photography down. Generally, I am in a hurry because that is my dinner I’m photographing and I’m hungry and it’s getting cold.
Anyway, I thought fish tacos are a good place to start, too, because I don’t make them from any one particular recipe. I make them the way my mom and I have developed over the years, and I think they’re damn good. So, I thought I would share my “recipe” here in case you would like to try it for yourself. These are Baja-style fish tacos, which have several distinct elements – fried strips of firm, white fish, cream sauce, cabbage slaw, and corn tortillas. There are millions of versions. Here is how I like to do it:
Lisa and Cathy’s Baja Fish Tacos
- 1 small/medium avocado
- 1 Tbs mayonnaise, preferably homemade
- 2 Tbs sour cream or Mexican crema
- lime juice to taste, always freshly-squeezed
- salt to taste, preferably Kosher
- hot sauce or 1 fresh, hot chile, optional
Combine avocado flesh, mayo, and sour cream in food processor and process until smooth. The amounts are approximate… it should be a smooth and creamy, bright green sauce. Add more mayo, sour cream, or avocado as needed or desired. Then squeeze in some lime juice and sprinkle in a little salt. Process to blend. Taste. The lime and salt will make all the difference, so don’t be afraid to add more, a little at a time, until it tastes bright and fresh. However, it is possible to overdo it, so just be careful. Also, you can blend in some hot sauce like Tabasco, or a fresh hot chile, like a serrano, if you like it hot.
fresh-pickled jalapenos and onions
- 1/2 large onion, any color, sliced thinly
- 2-3 fresh jalapenos, sliced into thin rounds
- 2/3 cup rice vinegar
- 1 Tbs freshly-squeezed lime juice
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
Bring vinegar, lime juice, and salt to a boil just to dissolve salt. Put onions and peppers into a dish and pour over the hot brine. Let sit an hour or more – this will keep for many days, covered, in the fridge.
- fresh cabbage, red or green, shredded
- fresh cilantro, to taste
- hot chiles, diced, optional
- lime juice
- Kosher salt
Combine the shredded cabbage and cilantro and optional chiles in a large bowl… as much as you like of each. Just a few minutes before serving, squeeze in some fresh lime juice and sprinkle liberally with salt. If this sits too long, the cabbage will wilt and give up uite a bit of its moisture. It will still be perfectly good to eat – slightly pickled and yunmmy – but not quite so crisp as fresh cabbage.
- firm white fish (I usually use wild Alaskan halibut)
- beer (any kind)
- canola oil or other fat for deep-frying (not olive oil because it will burn and taste strongly, lard or beef fat would be good, and other vegetable oils. please no hydrogenated fats!)
Slice the fish into strips about 1/2 inch thick. Prepare the beer batter by putting some flour into a bowl, adding a pinch of salt, and then slowly whisking in some beer until you get a consistency like pancake batter. Fill a shallow pan about an inch deep with fat and heat over medium-high heat until a drop of batter sizzles and floats to the top (or, alternatively, use a deep-fryer). Then, dip strips of fish into batter one at a time and add gently to the hot oil (I use chopsticks for this). Fry until golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels or paper bags.
Do your best to buy the best corn tortillas you can get. Unfortunately, tortillas you get at the grocery store just aren’t that great. Traditionally, Baja fish tacos are eaten with fresh, warm, pliable, un-fried corn tortillas hot off the griddle. If you have access to these, by all means use them. Otherwise, I lightly fry my tortillas – just until they are crisp around the edges, but still soft. This greatly improves dry, crumbly store-bought tortillas. It is up to you. Traditionall, they would not be fried, but they would not be hard, dry, and crumbly either.
smear some avocado crema alone the inside of the tortilla, add some of the fish, and top with pickled onions and chiles, and a generous portion of slaw. I like to use a combination of colors – if I use red onions, I use green cabbage, if I use white onions, I use purple cabbage. This is an easy, wonderful, healthy, and beautiful dish. I hope you try some at home! Enjoy!
please note: I use and reccomend using organic and locally-sourced, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients whenever possible. Please consider your health and the health of the planet when you are deciding what to eat. Also, please note that Kosher salt is almost half as salty as regular table salt. If you use regular salt, you will need less, Kosher salt, more.