These past few weeks have been so perfectly beautiful – clear as a bell and full to the brim with flowers and the unfolding of fresh green leaves, ready to meet the sunshine.
The mornings have been dew-strung and misty, illuminating the careful lacy weavings of the spiders in the golden light, and at night when we close up the chickens we search the clear, heavy stars for Gemini, and just below Orion is ready with his bow, tipping over the horizon beside Taurus, the Bull of Heaven who wears the Pleiades in his horns, and the great dog at his heel above the trees, flashing the bright starry medallion of Sirius.
We are studying the Greek myths and Astronomy for Rose’s 6th grade home school, and it’s the nicest way to do lessons in the quiet dark under the stars.
This spring has been one of the most calm and peaceful i can remember. Usually March feels hectic and intense as i struggle to find time to begin clearing the yellowing, bolting remains of the winter garden and planting the next garden that will provide for us into September.
We are always busy with other fun things and behind on home school, and i am never able to do everything i was supposed to on time.
This season is nothing like the leisurely progression of fall planting. The timing is critical to avoid heavy rains or voracious insects, and the years when i have been very slow or neglectful have been very sad and full of exploded melons, rotten tomatoes, chewed beans, and thorny weeds.
But since everything is closed, everything is cancelled, and everyone is shutting themselves up in quarantine for fear of infection, the only thing to really do is to be raking freshly weeded garden beds, tucking in little starts, and stopping with buckets full of mulch or compost to smell the lovely scarlet poppies that smell like sticky sweet baked goods in the sun.
This new garden is shaping up to be SO beautiful this year, that i have been dreaming about it even while I’m asleep.
I have been able to actually plant the sweet corn on time, and pause to wonder if i ought to pair the Apricot Lemonade cosmos with the Zinderella Peach zinnias and lavender statice, or if Tithonia might clash with the Candystick zinnias, and where could i plant the Queen Limes without them getting swallowed up by vegetables this year?
And meanwhile picking drifting armfuls of pink calendula and scarlet flax, cherry caramel phlox and chamomile and soapwort that work their way into heavenly bouquets on the windowsill.
In the midst of planting and weeding, we are pulling up beets and rutabega, and picking peas, and i am scrambling in the kitchen trying to process the abundance. We are also cracking open the fermented radish pickles we put up in January, and I am clearing the wierd stuff out of the freezer in anticipation of the spring meat birds being ready in May. And part of that is huge, steaming stockpots full of bones, feet, and odd knuckly bits.
Good broth, i think, is long-simmered, with bones and scrips and snips and scraps of ends of things too good to give to the pigs or dogs or chickens. But the BEST broth is all that AND has all kinds of knuckly, nobby, odd ingredients that give it a beautiful crust of gelatin even when it’s hot and gently bubbling, and makes soups and gravies that stick your lips together and delight the senses with flavor.
One of the most rarely (here and now) eaten parts, so often called “waste”. Don’t worry – this is not as gross as it sounds. Pig’s feet and chicken/poultry get are scalded, and the hair or skin and nails are peeled off, leaving a beautifully clean and collagen-rich foot to make broth from.
For cow feet, you must skin the skin away and dig the knife down into the hoof to pop it off.
One of my favorite things to do with the chicken feet is to fry them after I’ve made broth. They are cooked through, and when fried they become a very crispy, savory treat. Yes, it doesn’t look quite appetizing, but not only is this a super thrifty thing to make, it really is better than chicken wings.
FRIED CHICKEN WINGS
5-10 boiled chicken feet, left over from making broth
1 tablespoon good frying fat, like lard or ghee.
Salt, pepper, and garlic powder
1. Heat the fat in a good sized frying pan.
2. Add the chicken feet. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder when they start to crisp up. Turn once or twice. Let them fry until they are very crispy on both sides.
3. Drain on paper towels, and eat while still hot.