Saturday, February 27, 2010

Parsnips a'Plenty

Who knew parsnips could be so delicious? Could it be that they are that much tastier having spent the winter (such as it has been) underground? Perhaps plucking them now has given them a chance to do something with their sugars… concentrate them, or some such. They are still alive and well – with the recent warm weather, the parsnips (like so many other things in the garden) are waking up. Fresh, green tops are growing. Given that we cheat and grow root vegetables like carrots and parsnips as annuals, I suppose it should come as no surprise that they are gearing up for year two of their biannual existence. Presumably, if we let them go and do their thing, they will grow exuberantly this year (their hefty, well-established roots would serve them well!), flower, and produce seeds of some sort. If we were going to collect parsnip seeds, the challenge will be leaving one or two in the ground long enough to let that happen. I’m tempted – we planted an open-pollinated variety, so the seeds should be viable.

Meanwhile, though, we have had to deal with (eat) an abundance of parsnips. Last week I made a vegetarian chili and substituted half the carrots called for with parsnips – very tasty. From the same cookbook (Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker: 200 Recipes for Healthy and Hearty Meals That Are Ready When You Are) I made French White Bean and Cabbage Soup.

Not only did I use up more parsnips, I was also able to fish out some of the Dark Creek cabbage I chopped up, blanched, and froze back in the fall. I really do like winter and all the fabulous soup, stew, and chili-type meals one enjoys!

The cookbook is excellent, btw – being a fan of both the slow cooker and vegetables, I’ve tested and enjoyed various recipes and found them all to be excellent. I confess that when I bought the cookbook, I wasn’t thinking of breakfasts – but oh my, the hot cereal recipes are GREAT! Bonus – by adding some of our Dark Creek Apple Butter to the oatmeal , I’ve found yet another way to enjoy our late season bonanza and actually break out of my multi-decades old habit of tea and toast for breakfast!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Building Better Fences for Happier Horses (and less stressed humans...)

Down the road at the neighbour’s place is an empty field. Local thistles and tall grasses love the place – and happily take over each summer. At our place, we have very little room, are located on a hill (very slippery in the winter!) and currently have four horses (Bonny – Welsh Cob mare, her half-Gypsy cob two year-old filly, Con Brio, the happy appy, Diego, and Ringo, the Hackney-Welsh pony gelding). It seemed only natural that if we neighbours were neighbourly, we’d make our horses very happy and keep the field neatly groomed. Win. Win. Right?
Welsh Ponies and Cobs (Allen breed series) 
So, late last summer we rigged up a temporary electric fence and started turning the horses out in the field. Of course, they loved it – and why wouldn’t they? More room to romp, roll, and munch – the activities for which horses live.
Being away over Christmas, we all took a break from the turnout routine. Bonny had also been away (our efforts at breeding her to the lovely stallion, North Forks Cardi were, alas, unsuccessful in the end…) so a couple of weeks ago when we decided to resume the romping, Bonny acted like a wild and crazy teenager. She floated up the road, snorting and dancing, one huge bundle of barely suppressed energy plunging around at the end of her lead rope. Good friend Jane kept a good hold on Bonny’s lead rope while I dealt with the bouncy baby, Brio – and Dad waited at the edge of the field with his camera at the ready. We released mother and daughter at the top of the field and fastened the hot wire gate across the opening.

What a rodeo! The girls bolted down to the far end of the field, bucking and kicking and snorting. They spun around and then blazed back up toward the gate (where we were standing giggling like fools in front of the hot wire).  Bonny must have been doing forty clicks when she pelted straight past us and through our hot wire barrier. She was moving so fast I doubt she felt a thing. Apparently, a horse moving that fast in such a state of supreme excitement doesn’t listen to feeble humans calling, “Don’t go through the fence!” She went straight through and bolted down the road with Conbrio in hot pursuit.
Gypsy Vanner Horse 2010 Calendar 
The good news is we live on a very quiet dead end road. The other good news is that Bonny led the way straight back home. The other very good news is that though the wires snapped and electric insulators popped out and flung themselves every which way, nobody (horse or human) was hurt.

Humbled by Bonny’s mighty bolt for freedom, we hired Jane’s hot yoga instructor, Peter, to come and help us build a proper stretch of fence. Posts were sunk, boards pounded, hot wire affixed, a proper heavy farm gate schlepped down the hill from our place – and, voila – we are back in business. The horses have been absolutely blissed out during their subsequent romps in the field. Which, thankfully, have been safely contained within the field.

(Re-reading that last bit, I realize my reference to Peter could be interpreted a couple of ways… He teaches hot yoga – as in yoga that takes place in a very hot room – which is not to say he might not also be considered ‘hot’ but I don’t think it’s politically correct to say such things publicly.)
Build the Right Fencing for Horses: Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin A-193 (Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin, a-193)  (I'm thinking I should maybe get a copy of this book...)