Sunday, March 31, 2013

Crocus: a sure sign of spring

Over the years, I've come to realize that though small and unassuming, crocuses are some of my very favorite flowers. I think it's mostly due to the fact that they're the first flowers to appear at the end of a long, dreary, colorless winter. They draw me out, bundled up, to crouch down with my camera and shoot them from every possible angle.

These just appeared this week, and I couldn't have been happier to see them!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A chicken education

The average American consumer may expect to open their carton of grocery-store eggs and see a dozen uniform specimens: all the same color, all the same ideal egg shape.

Me? I love opening a carton of farm-fresh eggs and seeing variety.

I stopped by my neighbor's farm on Friday to buy a couple dozen eggs from her, and an hour later, I'd met the hens who lay the eggs I was about to enjoy.

Each visit to this farm is an education. She keeps a couple different broods of chickens; one hardier, larger brood remains outdoors through more of the winter and produces the eggs I enjoy for breakfast. These chickens are large, and while she has many different breeds mixed together, they look like what I think of as a textbook chicken, with smooth feathers and an iconic silhouette.

All those different breeds mean that each egg is different. A carton of eggs includes at least six different shades of brown, in addition to some that are more rosy or even green, and each has its own unique shape.

My neighbor's second brood of chickens stays in a garage through most of the winter, where they're kept warm with heaters and lamps. I find these incredibly interesting—before last summer, I'd never seen chickens like Seramas and Silkies. They're each a third the size (or less) of the hardier egg-business birds outside. The Silkies are particularly striking: contrary to their name, instead of smooth, silky feathers, they instead look like they're covered in soft, fluffy fur. And they're covered in this plumage from the crowns of their heads to the tips of their toes. When you do get a look at the body beneath the feathers, their skin is black and their earlobes are royal blue. Silkies are also known for their sweet, loving temperaments.

A special treat for my visit: I got to hold a couple chicks that were only a week old. They fit in the palm of my hand and only weighed an ounce or two.

I'll be going back to the farm sometime this spring with my camera, for sure. I'd love to photograph these beautiful, interesting birds, in addition to the herd of alpacas that roams outside.

Until then, I'll just be enjoying some delicious omelettes and frittatas!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Seeing winter, dreaming of spring

As I write this, central Indiana is bracing for a record-breaking snowfall: 5-10 inches, to be exact. Last year's winter was unusually mild, so I think we're just paying for it this year. Hopefully that means next year will be normal, and March 24 will actually FEEL like spring.

Until spring actually arrives, I'll keep dreaming. And making big pots of warming soup. Last night's was a delicious Italian Wedding Soup from Eating Well. I'm trying to get past my aversion to handling raw meat, so making the meatballs for this soup was a test of that self-education.

Let these photos of a flower bouquet put a little spring in your heart, no matter what Mother Nature is doing outside.