Four whole days

So, I’ve learned a lot about gardening in just this year and a half I’ve been doing it. I learned that no matter how detailed my “map” is, I will inevitable have something happen so that the only way I can id a plant is to wait for it to get bigger.

I’ve learned that I love raised bed box gardens, because the moles can’t get to my plants.

I’ve learned that the second year is harder than the first, because you had a whole year for seeds (tomato, grass and trees) to ‘infest’ your garden.

The most important thing I’ve learned so far, is that my garden thrives best when I neglect it a little bit.

I’m very lucky to live somewhere that has moderate temperatures (plant-wise) most of the year. I’m also very lucky that aside from the very middle of summer, I usually get enough rain that I only really need to water when the plants are very young and so their roots don’t reach far enough down to take advantage of the moisture capacity of the beds. Even in mid-summer we get fairly frequent thunderstorms. Things generally go awry when I fiddle too much with the garden, or can’t work in it for several weeks at a time. Otherwise, it does most of the work for me.

Also, I suck at thinning plants. I say, “Oh, it can grow a little more, that way I can let the [lettuce, spinach, carrot] get just a little bigger before I eat it!”

And tomato plants are weeds. Straight out invasive evil garden hogging weeds. Except really really tasty.

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Inhuman Kindness

I am a zoo keeper for an AZA accredited facility, for you folks who don’t actually know me. I am also a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Today was a banner day all around. This morning, I got a lovely view of my two fox kits. They are almost 5 weeks old, and developing their stunning adult markings. It’s going to be rough saying bye to those two, but as fast as they’re “wilding up,” they’ll be more than happy to leave humanity far behind!

Paul drove me to work, even, so he could help me tonight.

When I got to work, things went really smoothly, which is great, because I had stuff to do tonight. I’ll get to that later.

I’m at work, when my coworker texts me with, “Come to front of building if you want to see baby beavers.” I literally put whatever was in my hands down. I honestly don’t remember what it was. Then I started heading over as fast as I could.

This next paragraph is potentially gross.

This man had watched the car in front of him hit a beaver. He pulled off the road and saw that it was a female with enlarged teats. He noticed that she wasn’t producing milk, and saw the babies moving in her belly. He put the dead mom on the back of his truck, performed an emergency c-section and rescued her entire litter of six 1-2 week premature baby beavers. He tied umbilical cords, cleared their airways, got them breathing and cleaned them up.

He did a fantastic job. And then asked if we knew a rehabilitator who would take them.

My wildlife sponsor is a beaver specialist and jumped at the chance! And as cute as they are, I wished I could!

To top it all off, after work we drove a ways away to return to someone’s home who had brought me a bat in January. I got to climb a really tall ladder and release my first bat into the wild! It went great!

Now I am totally exhausted. But very very happy.

Becca’s Biscuit Recipes

Ok, people have asked and they shall receive! So far, I’m only thrilled with the crumbly biscuit, but maybe you’ll have better luck with the flaky version.

Since no two people gave me the same answer on what they consider the perfect biscuit, I will give the basics, and then detail how to tailor it to your preferences. For those of you science types, I will explain why things work by request, so that you, too, can fiddle with the recipe until its just like you want it.

Becca’s Basic Biscuit Batter (yeah, I know it’s a dough but that doesn’t start with B)

Makes appx 10 biscuits depending on how big you make them.

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cake flour
1 tablespoon (double acting) baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white granulated sugar (for sweeter biscuits use 2 tbsp)
1/3 cup unsalted butter (or shortening)
1 cup buttermilk or whole milk (see notes)

All versions use the same ingredients, it’s just how you put them together.

In a large bowl, whisk flours, baking powder, salt and sugar together. Lightly spray a cookie sheet (I use butter flavored Pam) and set aside. Fill an oven safe dish with water and place on the top rack of the oven. I do this with all of my baking now. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, 218 Celsius.

Using a food processor, or your hands, mix butter and shortening into flour mixture. For warm butter or shortening, mix until the flour resembles coarse breadcrumbs. This makes a middle of the road moisture biscuit. Good for soaking up lots of juice. For cold/slightly frozen butter, mix until all the butter pieces are fairly small (about pea sized) and a little flattened. It will look kind of chunky. Return the entire bowl to the fridge to chill the butter again. I use my fingers, so it gets pretty soft in the mixing process.

You can use either whole milk or buttermilk in the biscuits. I use a buttermilk substitute which I will explain afterwards in the notes. Add a little milk at a time, mixing it gently into the flour mixture. For flaky biscuits, stop when the dough is holding together. For crumbly biscuits, you want the resulting mixture to be wet. Not sopping, mind you, but it should look like cottage cheese.

This is where the technique varies wildly.

For flaky biscuits, knead dough two to three times. Not much. On a lightly floured surface, roll or flatten out and cut out your biscuits. I hate using the glass because the extra dough left over is either wasted, or heretically rerolled and makes tough, chewy biscuits. Use as little kneading as possible. I cut biscuits with a knife into squares so I don’t waste the dough.

For crumbly biscuits, have a more heavily floured surface. Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, scoop a couple of spoonfuls of dough onto your surface (as separate lumps, not all together). With well-floured hands, gently coat the outside of the wet dough with flour. This makes it so you can handle it. Do not knead at all, but just make it into the round shape of your biscuits. Be very careful to shake off excess flour. It’s not tasty on the final result.

This is when the directions converge again. Make sure that you place your biscuits tightly together. Smush them just a little. This helps keep inside moist and then they have no room except to go up!

Bake the biscuits on the middle of your oven at 425. For crumbly biscuits, bake for 13-15 minutes. For soft outsides, you want it to just barely start to turn golden on each biscuit. For crisper, wait until the top is golden (but not brown). Brown is bad mm’kay? The flaky ones seem to cook much faster, say 10-12 minutes.

Take them out, let cool for a minute or so, then enjoy!

Notes

For crumbly biscuits, you can use shortening or butter, or even half butter and half shortening. For flaky biscuits, it has to be cold butter. I chop my butter into pea-sized pieces before using. You can put the butter in the freezer for a few minutes after chopping so that it’s very cold when you mix it in. I like cold or cooler butter over room temperature. Why? Because as it baked in the oven, the butter melts and its like your biscuits came pre-buttered out of the oven!

Buttermilk substitute: I don’t usually keep buttermilk at the house, so I learned this trick. One tablespoon of lemon juice into a measuring cup. Add whole milk until it reaches the one cup line. Let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes, so that it curdles.

That’s what I can think of right now. Any questions?

Food Adventures

I’ve been trying to learn how to eat seasonally, as well as trying new foods to add to my variety.

There’s a local butcher that often carries unusual meats. One time, I was even able to purchase kangaroo steaks. If they were closer, I’d be in a lot of danger of spending most of my money there! I went to visit them because I was looking for goat meat. I got a leg piece, but also ended up going home with some “beef mountain oysters.” I’ve never eaten bull balls before. Thankfully, one of the butchers was so excited to see someone willing to try weird food, that he took the time to tell me how to cook them. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to eat them, but I’ll tell all once I have.

A Fall Harvest

I have learned today many things. One of which is that when you have sweet potatoes in your garden the only way to make sure you found all of the potatoes is to dig up all of the dirt. You’d be amazed at how far sweet potatoes will spread when left unchecked. I found an entire sweet potato approximately 6 feet away from where I planted the plants originally. I found that parsley grows best under adversity and that plants make entirely too much root ball.

I found out one of the best cure for some depression and self frustration is to do something that involves much physical labor outside in the sun regardless of how cold that might be.

I’ve made some changes in my lifestyle including trying to be as self-sufficient as possible. Yes my garden projects or classes start in costly to put together but it seems that I have at least made some of my money back and produce. The best part is once I properly a portion of sand under dirt in my square-foot garden it will have paid for itself I don’t need to add anymore. I spent more than $200 building and putting together this garden and I will not have to spend that money anymore because the dirt will just stay there as long as I keep adding compost it will keep making plans for me.

I enjoyed being able to do stuff for the house myself the fact that I’ve grown my unplanned and canned them preserve them make jelly at fixing things around the house being able to take care of myself and my household makes me feel satisfied in a way I cannot express.

Please excuse the poor grammar and punctuation I’m having a very difficult time getting through to Siri to understand where contrition marks should go.

I owe my new attitude and ways to see things my parents and doomsday preppers. Doomsday preppers maybe over-the-top however it does make me look at things a different way. How much can I save myself? What things can I do where I don’t depend on the government or electricity or functioning sewage systems?

My parents help me with this viewpoint because I grew up with my mother canning and preserving food, with my father hunting me and I realize that having the ability to feed myself without having to go to the grocery store, not only usually tastes better but is more emotionally satisfying.

Eventually there will be more posts regarding modern homesteading, self-sufficiency,and even prepping if necessary. It’s much more fun to do it myself I find. It’s only too bad that I can’t have goats here or that would be a whole set of blogs in another itself.

See you next time.

For a first

Just throwing this out here. I’ve realized that I might be really excited about what I’m doing and what is going on in the yard, at the museum, whatever. And that folks really aren’t as interested in it as I am. So, as I work on things like wildlife rehabilitation, wilderness survival, backpacking, gardening, paleontology… just about anything to do with the outdoors… oh, let’s not forget cooking, baking, canning, and preparing for the zombie apocalypse.

Anyhow, I lost the thread of that sentence. Suffice it to say, I am not going to fill people’s ears with endless accounts of what I am up to, instead, if you want to know what I’ve been doing, you can see the blog and just read the stuff you want to. So there. Nyah nyah.

I think that’s good enough for the first time.