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Author: Zia

Today, I cook tongue.

Today, I cook tongue.

We’ve really stepped up buying local/sustainable this year. Part of this has entailed going to Bob’s Quality Meats, a local butcher in Columbia City that features all local, pastured meats. I swear, their whole chickens are the most delicious things ever. A few weeks ago, I was perusing the freezer and came across a beef tongue. I was feeling daring that day–and thinking about eating “nose to tail”–and thus the tongue found its way into my basket and into our freezer at home.

Now my grandmother used to cook tongue all the time. I remember it as being very tender and tasty. I never really thought about it that much, probably because it generally appeared on my plate already sliced and smeared with horseradish. But this … this hunk of tongue. Any recipe entails boiling it and then peeling the skin off it. It’s been taunting me from the freezer.


Last night, I pulled it out out the freezer and stuck it in the fridge This morning, Steve took the Pyrex dish out of the fridge and onto the counter because it wasn’t thawed. We stared at it wordlessly. Finally, he broke the silence. “I’ll eat anything,” he said. “But I have to tell you. I’m not really looking forward to dinner tonight.”

The thing is, a tongue is a tongue is a tongue. It doesn’t matter whether it’s from a pig, a cow, or a human. They all look the same. (Except of course for size, which led to some fairly ribald comments as we were contemplating it.) But I tell myself: How is it any worse to eat tongue when we eat other meat? The only difference is that it’s more easily recognizable for what it is. When I was 10 or 11, I went out to a fancy dinner with some relatives and ordered sweetbreads off the menu. To be totally honest, all that was going through my head was, “WOW! I like this place–you can have COFFEE CAKE or DONUTS as DINNER!” So yeah, I pretty disappointed when I got some meat in a buttery sauce. It was pretty good. But it wasn’t CAKE. Later on, my great aunt told me what sweetbreads really were. I just shrugged. It was okay.

I’m hoping the tongue is like that.

So here I go ….

Tuesday morning conversation

Tuesday morning conversation

Otherwise entitled, Not only am I turning into MY mother, I’m turning into Steve’s as well.

“Zia, can you show me where those cake pans are?” Steve asked. “You know, the ones that have the sides and bottom that separate?”

“You mean a springform pan?”

“Yes, that. Where are they?”

“Why?” I asked suspiciously. “Are you baking something?”

“Kind of,” Steve hedged.

“Tell me what you’re planning on doing with it.” I crossed my arms over my chest.

“I need to mold something,” he said vaguely.

“What do you need to mold?” Foot tapping.


“No. No way. Absolutely not.”

“But you have two, and one doesn’t work as well,” he wheedled.

“They both work just fine.”


Poor maligned Henzilla

Poor maligned Henzilla

Today, I noticed that Henzilla seemed, well, fluffier than normal. She’s spent most of her confinement looking like a pancake with a head.

I pulled her up, and with a sinking heart saw another broken egg shell. But then I looked a little harder, and there it was. Yep, a wee baby chickiepoo.

Looked a little harder–and there are two.

So she’s a proud mama, and has proved us all wrong. She’s not a cannibal or a killer.

Making butter

Making butter

Sometimes I wonder whether cookbooks are becoming obsolete. I mean, I have cookbooks–and nothing is a better quick kitchen reference than The Joy of Cooking–but I find myself going online to find recipes far more often than looking through cookbooks. (I actually posed this question recently at a small dinner gathering; one guy said that he thought books in general were becoming obsolete. Yikes. Perish the thought.)

Anyway, one of the perils of researching recipes online is the fact that one gets easily sidetracked. For instance, I went online this morning to get the proportions of beef bones to water to make stock. And before you know it, there I am on a page on how to make butter.


Why not?

Here’s the page (complete with an explanantion of why you shouldn’t feel guilty eating butter). His directions are nice and lucid, and include complete pictures. Should you not feel like clicking, the process of making butter is as simple as throwing heavy cream into a KitchenAid and whipping it until the fat sticks together

So here we are at the buttermilk whooshing out of the butter stage.

We just happen to have an antique butter mold and paddle.

With a nice little pattern inside the mold.

Pressed it in

And now it’s resting in the fridge, waiting to be unmolded.

*Update: It behooves one to read up on how to use a butter mold before one actually uses it. To wit: Apparently, you are supposed to soak it in water for 30 minutes before using it. Otherwise, the butter won’t pop out. Sigh.

Henzilla the killa

Henzilla the killa

Doesn’t she look all sweet and maternal as she incubates her eggs?

Not so much.


The really sad thing is that there were only four that were developing nicely, and this was one of those four. I have bad bad feelings about this.

If nothing hatches and she stays broody, I will buy some chicks and sneak them under her in the dead of night. Apparently, this approach sometimes tricks them into thinking they’ve hatched their eggs.

Of course, she’ll probably kill those too.

Another day, another set of eggs

Another day, another set of eggs

You know, people are really generous. Here are the new fertilized eggs, which were given to me after posting a Craig’s List ad:

The rooster is a mille fleur d’uccle and the hens are d’uccle, RIR, ameracauna/easter egger, buff orpington, cinnamon queen, and blue marans.

(Speaking of the marans, just LOOK at the color of the eggs. I’m not getting anything that dark out of my two.)

Another three weeks. Sigh.

Chicken TV

Chicken TV

A couple of months ago, Steve had the bright idea of building a smaller coop and putting it up against the dining room window so we could watching chicken TV during dinner. We got really gung-ho about the concept for an evening; he sketched out plans while I scoured Craig’s List for more Fluffaluffagi (i.e., silkies, which he for some reason that I can’t quite fathom, loves). The next morning, we looked at each other and started laughing.

“I need a job,” he explained ruefully.

“I don’t have that excuse,” I said, even more ruefully.

When Henzilla went broody, he built a chicken tractor in a day. I was going to isolate her, as all the experts advise. But I was so gung-ho to have her hatch out some eggs, and I didn’t want to risk her broodiness being broken that I never moved her. And now that she’s rejected those eggs and was still trying to hatch out the plastic eggs, we figured it was time to try isolating her. So we moved the tractor (which in terms of weight is more like a combine) to the side of the house. I plucked her from the coop and settled her in there. She squawked furiously for about an hour–and now she’s re-incubating the plastic eggs.

It’s time to get more fertile eggs. Oh yes–and did I mention chicken TV? This is the view from our dining room:

Putting names to beaks

Putting names to beaks

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted chick pix, hasn’t it? Without further ado:

This is Stubbs. She’s been molting for ages, but has beautiful new plumage. I’ve found out that she’s a blue-laced red wyandotte, only she has two copies of the blue gene, so she’s actually white (splash).

My rose-comb Rhode Island Red. She doesn’t really have a name yet.

A production red I bought a couple of months ago. Her name is Ketchup (her sister was Mustard).

One of the three buttercups. The first buttercup I got is Mine (she has the biggest floppiest comb); the other one not pictured is Pointy because she lays these enormous pointy eggs; this one is Molty because she’s been molting for eons.

Deadline, the barred rock. Also an amazing layer.

Michelle Obama. I had an Autralorp who looked just like her, but she was an eggeater, so I got rid of her. This one is a black marans and Steve just continued calling her MO, which is the name the Australorp came with.

Attila the Hen. Steve says she looks manly.

Shpeck (bacon in Romanian, sp?), the Speckled Sussex. These pictures pretty much sum up her personality, so it’s no surprise that she’s my absolute favorite chicken (despite the fact that she laid about 5 eggs and then quit entirely for the winter).

I am not a huge silkie fan; I was going to get rid of her, but Steve fell in love with this ridiculous excuse of a hen. He also named her Fluffaluffagus.

Henzilla (who’s been isolated to make or break the broodiness)

Barnie, who is quite possibly the worst specimen of a Barnevelder that has ever lived. She’s still going through a juvenile molt, so we’ll see if she gets completely double-laced.

Henzilla the cannibal

Henzilla the cannibal

Early this morning, there were still two eggs under Henzilla. An hour later, there was one egg under Henzilla and the remnants of the shell. An hour after that, there were more shell remnants and Henzilla was incubating the plastic eggs in a different nesting box.

I’m going to give Henzilla the benefit of the doubt and assume that the growing eggs were quitters. And if she’s still broody, I’m going to move her into the new chicken tractor that Steve built (and that we’re going to put between our garage and Nicki’s) and give her some more eggs to hatch.

I’m so disappointed–the eggs were only two days away.



When I let the chickens out this morning, there were three smashed eggs on the floor and another in the coop. One was hollowed out and obviously eaten; the others were cracked enough that whatever may have been in them was dead.

I candled for the last time last night; of the six she had left, two were clear and four appeared to be growing. Certainly, two of the eggs felt heftier than one and when I peeled back the membrane a little on one (which I really debated doing because of being freaked out), there was a baby chick curled up inside.

The question is what happened. Henzilla was up off the nest when I pulled open the door to the coop. Michelle Obama and the rose-comb RIR were standing there. Did Michelle Obama get a little witchy? (I doubt it was the RIR–she’s one of the few that are laying right now and she’s in and out of the nesting box almost every day. She lays her egg in the other corner and calls it good.) Or did Henzilla push them out herself?

Whatever the case, I made sure the remaining two eggs were secure under her before shutting up the coop. One felt suspiciously lighter than the other. The broken eggs I tossed into the brush down the hill.

Henzilla’s due date

Henzilla’s due date

It’s Sunday. I can’t believe how quickly the past two and a half weeks have gone. Henzilla is happily incubating her eggs, while I sneak them out from under her in the dead of night to candle them. There are four that are growing and three that are duds. Amazingly enough, I found one of the duds pushed out of the nesting box into the dirt below. Guess she knows.

Every day or so, Henzilla gets up, relieves herself, gobbles down food and water, and picks on all the other birds. (She’s always had this tendency, hence the name, but it’s worse than ever. I wonder if she’s establishing her dominance so that all the other birds will leave her chickiepoos alone.) She then scurries back to her nest, fluffs all her feathers out and settles back on the eggs.

Now that Henzilla is occupied for most of the day, her half-sister has taken over picking on everyone. Up until now, I’ve been calling her The Big Gray One–but now she has her very own moniker: Attila. Attila the Hen.

You’re not going to believe this …

You’re not going to believe this …

but the kitchen is FINISHED.

Well, okay, not 100 percent finished. We still need to get a new fridge and hood for the stove, but those are last on the line. We’re also getting new curtains for underneath the sink. But the bulk of the work? DONE.

It’s amazing.

Here’s a recap of the kitchen’s past.

Here’s what it looked like completely gutted.

And now, here’s a panoramic set of photos of what it looks like now.

Full circle

Full circle

We got back from spending the holidays with Steve’s family in Rockford Friday night, and of course, one of the first things I did was to check on the chickens. (It was late, so couldn’t pick up Harry from Carrie and Jimmy’s til the following morning.) Henzilla was sleeping in one of the nesting boxes, which I thought was a little strange. The next morning, she was still there, fluffed up and sort of dazed looking. She clucked at me. When I lifted her, she was lying on the three fake eggs the chickens like to roll under themselves when they’re laying. She ruffled her feathers and glared at me before settling herself down on them again.

I have a broody hen, I thought to myself. She just started laying about a month ago, and she’s already broody. “She’s been broody for about three days,” Carrie confirmed when I got Harry. What to do with a broody hen? Why, put fertilized eggs under her of course! Posted an ad on, got several responses … including one from a guy who breeds Barnevelders.

Which is totally fitting because this is the breed that started this whole chicken adventure. If you recall, I spent a fortune on hatching eggs and got a single bird. Now, perhaps I’ll have some more–and if the parent birds are any indication, I’ll get chickens that actually have that gorgeous double-lacing instead of one that appears more barred than laced. (And no, Barnie hasn’t started laying yet either.)

So here’s to round two with Barnevelders! It’s a happy new year thus far …

Pygmy goats, Nigerian dwarf goats … or fainting goats

Pygmy goats, Nigerian dwarf goats … or fainting goats

Oh the choices.

I’ve pretty much decided that if this goat venture gets started, we’re getting Nigerian dwarf goats. They produce more milk and, unlike pygmy goats that are cobby, retain the lines and shape of a regular goat, only in a smaller size.

But there’s something pretty compelling about fainting goats. I’m assuming these don’t last long in the wild.

I’m feeling very grinchy today

I’m feeling very grinchy today

I know! Let’s ban the holiday season entirely.

Well, I’m not totally serious. It’s nice to be baking and listening to the Messiah, but there’s just too much to do, and too little time in which to do it. Need to get presents wrapped and mailed. Which is a daunting task in and of itself.

But, there’s a hafla tonight at the bellydance studio, and I’m taking my Little Sister. And the house is clean–well, relatively. I still haven’t figured out how I can spend three hours cleaning, and then the cleaner arrives and unearths yet more grime. Sigh.

Chickens bedamned!

Chickens bedamned!

We’re getting goats!

(Not really on the bedamned part; I love my chickiepoos, and I’m getting as many as 5 eggs a day these rainy, cold days.)