Friday, June 12, 2009

Farm report: The chickens appreciate my cooking

Chickens recycle leftovers that we can't compost or throw into the worm box, like leftover fromage blanc, Vietnamese noodles, and beautiful, not-that-delicious German pancake (see above.)

Since we had such luck with Molly Wizenberg's Dutch Baby a while back, this morning I attempted a variation, the pfannkuchen from the most recent Joy of Cooking. Joy: "Our recipe is based on one by Henrietta Davies, nineteenth century Germany's greatest cookbook author." 

Nineteenth century Germany's greatest cookbook author. Nothing on the internets about nineteenth century Germany's greatest cookbook author, which makes her even more intriguing. Aspiring biographers, take note.

Unfortunately, Henrietta's pancake -- which contained four eggs and 1/2 cup of cornstarch in place of flour -- was deemed eggy and "not as good as a pancake" by husband. The children seemed to concur. I wish I could rebut, but since I no longer have a metabolism, try not to eat pancakes. (I'm making buckwheat crepes with salted caramel sauce tonight, and for those will make an exception.)

Anyway, the chickens relished Henrietta's pancake, and I feel less troubled by the waste, which is no longer technically waste. Ok, it's still waste, but not as egregious.

Getting back to the fascinating subject of the worm box. Last year my mother gave me her worm farm which she'd been carefully cultivating  for years. This was one healthy, industrious colony. I used to lift the lid to see a seething, fleshy pink mass of fat wrigglers which was totally grotesque, but also fantastic. I wanted them to thrive and throw off lots of excellent compost, and since I'm definitely a "more is more" person, I fed them and fed them, carried every last coffee ground and cabbage core and crushed egg shell out to my babies. The box got very heavy and wet and oozed pitchers of so-called worm "tea" which I gave to the plants.

Then, over the course of a week, all the worms died. I had smothered them with kitchen scraps. Husband buried the noisome contents in a bare patch in the garden, and a month later I planted some tomatoes right there. The tomatoes have gone completely bonkers. 

For mid-June in a fog belt, that is bonkers. Note the tiny fruits:
Tomato plants elsewhere in the garden are a third the size with no tomatoes.

You don't have to kill worms to reap the benefits, you can just harvest the "soil" every now and then. I have acquired some new worms and, although it is a struggle, am practicing restraint in their feeding. I will spare you a photograph.

It occurs to me that maybe chickens should not be eating fromage blanc and German pancake, that "more is more" might endanger birds as well. I don't think so, but will check on that.


  1. I can't compost effectively even with just scraps, so I am impressed at your efforts with the worms at all. And I'm sure you've found this resource on the bees already but it came up on one of "my" other blogs this morning and of course I thought of you:
    The post was from that farm in GA that was featured in the NYT magazine this week. I can track it down too if you want; they lost most of their first colonies and have recovered well if that's any encouragement.

  2. You'll find that your chickens will stop eating the scraps when they get full. Our chicken run is a veritable Pompeii of the last five years' meals.

    I figure anything I put out there improves the poop:non-poop ratio.

  3. I was very intrigued by the unfindable most famous german cook book writer so I had to look myself. Esp. as her name did not sound all that German! Turns out it is slightly different, so here she is:

    I hadn't heard of her before but then, I am Austrian and do not hold German cooking in high regard....

    Oh, and do not throw away the fromage blanc! It tastes very nicely as a spread on bread (just add some herbs), for example... I have started to translate my recipe but got stuck, sorry. And I hope your bees recover...

  4. Thank-you, LizA! This was a rare mistake in the Joy of Cooking -- they misspelled her name. I see there is a museum dedicated to her. It looks very quaint.

  5. I always wonder if publishers would appreciate a note from readers who find an error, so they can fix it for the next edition. But I never folo thru with a note, and, besides, I don't think I've ever seen a note in a book saying, "Please tell us if you find a typo by emailing us at blah blah blah." One time I read a first printing of "Rabbit Run" and found a few things I thought must be mistakes. I marked them and planned to get a later edition and compare. I never did that, either.