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Homestead Happenings: out with the old and in with the new

August 17, 2010

Greetings from 6512 feet where our teeth are flecked with wild meat and our skin has taken on a strange green color, sort of like this:

Okay. I promise I’ll stop talking about zucchini for a little while, but I think many of us are rowing the same zucchini boat and maybe we can throw each other an oar from time to time. Here’s two oars for you this week: this recipe’s for zucchini chips which I’m gearing up to make, and this one’s for creamy corn, zuke and lime pasta, which I made last night for company, embarrassing myself with my frequent, corn-in-my-teeth outbursts of “this is soooo good,” which it was.

All meals start with this


Dan and I had a meeting last night at our freezer, where we rummaged through the rag-tag remains of our meat supply. Tis the season to discover the previously passed-over packages like “buck liver,” “elk heart,” or “scrappy, lower leg stew meat.” I am famous for opting out of the more gnarly cuts like the semi-digestable, sinewy lower leg, which Dan chews at for whole August evenings, farting and defending his meal, as if someone was talking trash about his Mama.

The elk heart I nibble on, enjoying the insanely rich flesh before my mind interrupts my tongue and gives it too much information. The kids, having scant experience building their prejudice files, know organ meats simply as foods that occasionally appear on the table, and can get quite ravenous around a lightly fried elk heart. (Apparently their mental files also do not include “male business attire” because they spotted our neighbor Sage in a tie recently and wondered why he was wearing “a scarf around his neck”).

Also found in the depths of the freezer were bags of frozen elk pee. For reals. (Sorry Aunt Jan, I know you’re here to read cute stuff about the kids). Dan read an article in one of his bow hunting mags which suggested traipsing off to the woods, digging up piles of elk pee and freezing them until hunting season at which time you thaw and douse clothing to camouflage your hunky man-scent. Of course I support going natural and cost-free, but have you ever smelled a musky spray of ungulate urine? It’s not something you want mingling with your frozen applesauce and chimichurri. We’re still negotiating on this one.


In other news on the homestead I had a morning to myself in the garden yesterday, and it’s crazy what I can accomplish without having to rescue Dandelion the Buff Orpington hen from getting dunked in a water bucket or reminding a certain young lady that “we don’t put screwdrivers in our butt, okay honey?” But what is more remarkable is what I’ve accomplished this year with the kids around, which is everything, because as you may remember, my kid-free time is strictly spent hiding out with my secret lover.

Please don’t think for a second that as I’m yanking bindweed from the squash patch that Col and Rose are turning the compost or consulting their list of garden chores. As I zoom around the garden, getting one minuscule task done, the kids are often swirling mint leaves into the chickens’ water bowl or systematically dragging everything out of our shed. Within minutes Rose is naked and Col, mud-splattered. I race against the clock of harassed chickens and unearthed spiders, gritting my caffeinated teeth and sighing like it’s an olympic sport while the kids go feral under the influence of sun, sky and dirt. But deep down I know it’s good, their curiosity, their independence, their partnership, their ability to see a wilderness in our 1/8 acre city lot.

Skinny-dipping in the bird bath, mingling with mosquito larvae!

The garden is pumping out goodies and as we get to the bottom of our elk and deer supply, I’m starting to fill the freezer back up with pesto, gooseberries, and roasted squash dip. Out with the old and in with the new.


Migrant farm workers somberly snipping cilantro leaves.

Those cucumbers I transplanted to the greenhouse all died a slow, withery death, so I replaced them with chard, little 4-leaved plants I found crawling out from under the shady bustle of zucchini skirts. In fact, I transplanted 15 little chardians, stashing them around the garden like a junkie hiding little fixes. You can almost feel the first frost snaking down the mountains and I’m putting my money on chard.

Why yes, I do love it so much I want to marry it.

The monsoon rains are bold this year. Stepping out of their prescribed afternoon cloudburst, they’re showing up in the morning, or rumbling all the night long. And I tell you, rain is an event here in the Southwest. At the first smattering of rain, we applaud and dance around like the heavens were spitting gold, which really, they are.

Still seeking zuke recipes y’all. XO,


25 Comments leave one →
  1. Ellen permalink
    August 17, 2010 10:28 pm

    Looking at the corn and zuchini pasta recipe, I think it would be good with coconut milk instead of cream (coconut milk and lime makes anything taste special).

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 18, 2010 7:22 am

      Good call. The cream was a little intense, in the artery-blocking way, the next day for leftovers.

  2. Steph permalink
    August 17, 2010 10:31 pm

    Frozen elk pee: that’s hard core. I am so impressed that Dan knows those animals so intimately that he even knows where they pee!

    Also, your chard is gorgeous. Mine this year is “bigger” than last year, but nowhere near as robust as that!!! I would want to marry that chard, too!

  3. August 17, 2010 11:06 pm

    I don’t think I could handle elk pee. Or elk heart. But chard and cilantro and peppers, oh, yes!

    Your little migrant workers are the cutest. Are you paying them a living wage, like, say, all the eggs they can gather? =>

  4. August 18, 2010 12:49 am

    Hah, the trash can is the perfect way to contain your rascals while you’re working ;).

    Not sure if you subscribe to Maya Made, but she just posted a photo of delicious-looking zucchini pancakes that I can’t wait to try.

  5. August 18, 2010 6:12 am

    I’ve got a zucchini stew recipe on my site… my mil used to make it to use up her stock…. posting a much worked on zucchini bread recipe next week…. love the chardians….. and do share the roasted squash dip recipe….

  6. Emily permalink
    August 18, 2010 9:24 am

    Did I sense a quiet voice begging to know when it becomes possible to do something in the garden without two little ones UN-doing other things right behind you? (yes, yes, it’s all very good for them to discover and learn, no argument there.) Well, I’m not very far ahead of you, I don’t think. My two are newly 5 and 7 and I was marveling last week at how much more was accomplished in the garden than just last fall. Someday we’ll be able to hang out at the tomatoes, without talking, side by side, in familial bliss. Talking on the phone however will continue to be a problem I suspect :>)

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 18, 2010 3:12 pm

      I bet 5 and 7 is a revelation. It’s all relative. I’m full of gratitude and awe because last year we had a problem with Col mischievously picking green tomatoes and Rose trailing me like secret service. But yes, the UN-doing…

  7. August 18, 2010 9:25 am

    Check out Barbara Kingsolver’s recipe for chocolate zuke cookies from her book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”.

  8. August 18, 2010 9:40 am

    Whew…sounds exhausting. Now I know why I’ve left most of the gardening to my hubby since…forever. You’ve done amazing things under such circumstances! I’m so jealous of those chile peppers! We started our plants too late, most seedlings got eaten by a mouse and the scraggly plants that survived are overcrowded by broccoli and tomatoes and don’t have so much as a blossom! That’s what I get for trying to trick the southwest out of New England’s soil. And gooseberries??? I haven’t had a gooseberry pie in so long…anything in the currant family is persona non grata in Maine (something about a fungus they give white pines, blah, blah, blah)…

  9. August 18, 2010 10:00 am

    I think I’ve told you before just how much I adore your writing right? So you’re probably sick of it and I won’t encumber you with another – Oh my god, you are such an incredible writer. Your gift is absolutely inspiring. And man are you funny. Yeah, I best leave it out lest you think I’m a bumbling, adoring fan.

    What you’re doing with your garden, as well as your love and respect for nature, are such wonderful gifts to your family – especially your kids who are not just enjoying the harvest, but will probably perpetuate your skills and passion to share with their own family as well. Kudos mama.

  10. August 18, 2010 10:09 am

    I’m making this today:

    I love the chard photo. There’s something so beautiful about those colors. Makes me want to make soup!

    I think Dan needs a man fridge in the garage. There, he can store urine and organs and beer and all the rest in his very own special place. ;)

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 18, 2010 4:16 pm

      Katie, He does need his own dorm-sized freezer for urine and livers! (and deer brains and bear fat and the random flicker (woodpecker bird) that has been in our freezer for a century–scaring the bejeezus out of my mom–that I totally forgot to mention!).

  11. Melissa permalink
    August 18, 2010 10:28 am

    Such tangible writing; I love it, as always.

    Looking forward to those kinds of days when the kids are a bit older, and at the same time wishing I could can and freeze all these current moments we are having . . .

  12. August 18, 2010 11:11 am

    Your chard is beautiful. I have had really good luck with chard in the winter, but we are talking Central PA winter here. Kale too.

    Love that your kiddos are more familiar with eating elk heart than neckties….they will go far in life for sure;)
    p.s. thanks for the zucchini chip plug

  13. Ami permalink
    August 18, 2010 4:31 pm

    With my internet down, I sit here in a downtown parking lot, trying quickly to get through my 706 emails… deleting like a mad woman, discerning which emails are important, and which I can just forget about… and then, I see you’ve posted, and yes, taking the time to read your post (even though I don’t really have the time) is such a delight and blessing! Thank you for your contribution to my life! :)
    I think I’m gonna get one of those fancy kitchen things that makes noodles out of zucchini, then it just tastes like whatever sauce you put on it…

  14. August 18, 2010 10:29 pm

    You are seriously hilarious Rachel. I was trying to tell my mom that my son will not, in fact, grow up to be a criminal just because he tied up the dogs legs the other night for fun. My mom, I think, has forgotten how creative and time consuming children are!

  15. August 19, 2010 4:49 pm

    oh, thank heavens my boy hasn’t thought of using the screwdriver for that! we’re sadly NOT drowning in zucchini, but were we, i thought this looked yummy and easy:

  16. Judy permalink
    August 19, 2010 5:59 pm

    Twho Zucchini Strategies:
    a) GRATE up mounds and mounds of zukes & sprinkle generously with coarse salt. Let stand for 1-2 hours, turning it over once or twice.
    b) With bare hands, SQUEEZE out the liquid. Really squeeze!!Note: This step goes better with CHILD LABOR!!
    c) Shape into patties of any size or shape & freeze on a cookie sheet & bag when frozen.

    In the wintertime use a patty or two in soups, stews, breads – just about anything.

    B. When you have exhausted every option, you could always PULL UP all but ONE plant.

    Look forward to hearing more in the Annals of Zuke-dom.

  17. August 19, 2010 7:06 pm

    Elk heart! I recently had shaved tuna heart. And I pour fish pee on my garden…aquarium water. But the elk pee in the freezer is something else.

  18. August 19, 2010 9:51 pm

    Wow! The first part of your blog had me um, holding my big belly for a second!!! You guys are just so darn brave!! Well. . . I should mention I’m a vegetarian, but still brave you are! The rest of your post I loved as well! You are so witty and funny! I so enjoy your blog girl!


  19. August 20, 2010 9:13 am

    That zucchini corn pasta looks delicious. Thanks for the link, I’m going to try it…as soon as we’re done eating the two zuccchini/egg pies I made last night. ;-)

  20. Jan permalink
    August 22, 2010 11:45 am

    Elk pee? Don’t have any around here and I don’t know if they’d eat our vegetation, but we have a neighbor who used to have her boys (when they were little) pee all around the edges of her property to keep the deer out. It worked like a charm. I don’t think she ever froze any, but if frozen elk pee serves the purpose, why not? I think a generator in case of power failure, would be a good idea, though!

    Aunt Jan, who really giggled with this one!


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