Remember those cute, fuzzy little muscovy “ducklings” we hatched last summer? Turns out, some of them are hybrids! For all of you genetics fans out there, here you go! You may be familiar with the hybrid between a male donkey and a female horse…known as a mule. But did you know that because horses and donkeys are different species, with different numbers of chromosomes, that the hybrid offspring are sterile? And that if the hybrid offspring is from a female donkey and a male horse, it’s called a hinny? Well, now you know!

How does this apply to those ducklings? Hold on to your hats, you’re about to find out! Domestic ducks (all of which are descended from mallards) are not only a different species from muscovies, they are of a different genus as well. Therefore, ducks and muscovies don’t have the same number of chromosomes, so when they breed, the offspring are sterile. AND, the offspring have familiar names…mulard (or mule duck) if the cross is a male muscovy with a female duck, or hinnie if the cross is a male duck and a female muscovy. Now that the ducklings have matured, we can tell some of them are hybrids…we don’t know which way they crossed, but we suspect they are hinnies…based on eyewitness accounts! Unfortunately for them, sterile “ducks” only have one purpose on a farm.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about my first sale of ducks, 5 juvenile hens and 1 juvenile drake. Well, that same brood had several other drakes that I didn’t sell. You know how it is, when there are too many boys and not enough girls to go around, the boys fight and the girls get stressed, which affects their health. Unfortunately for those young drakes, their only purpose is the same as the sterile “ducks”…a stew pot! This process is the most unpleasant, but necessary, part of farming. We always thank God for His provision and pray a blessing over the ducks before we dispatch them…and we use as much of the animal as we possibly can to be good stewards with what God has provided…stay tuned for some yummy duck recipes!

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Have you ever actually read the ingredients on many of the spice or seasoning blends that you purchase, and ultimately consume? Well, here are a few examples of what you might find.

Silicon dioxide…that’s ‘sand’ to us common folk, one of the main ingredients in making glass. This is added to many, many items as an anti-caking agent so lumps don’t form. Didn’t your parents tell you not to eat sand when you were a kid?

Cellulose powder (or cellulose in any other form)…commonly called ‘sawdust’. This, too, is used as an anti-caking agent…works for beavers & termites!

Then there’s the ever-popular MSG, or monosodium glutamate. This is a flavor enhancer…why add more herbs when you can just throw in a chemical that makes it taste like there are more herbs? Make sense, right? MSG has recently enjoyed a comeback with it’s new moniker, ‘umami’, but it is still the same old MSG that many people are allergic to.

Some of my favorites include ethoxyquin (also used as a pesticide), calcium stearate (also used as a plasticizer for making plastics and as a surfactant, which is the sudsy stuff in detergents), and carboxymethylcellulose (I don’t know what this is, but can you even pronounce it?)

These “ingredients”, along with propionic acid, malic acid, guar gum, and many others, are labelled by the Food & Drug Administration as “food additives”. On average, Americans eat their weight in food additives every year. According to the FDA, a food additive is “any substance the intended use of which results or may reasonably be expected to result…in its affecting the characteristics of food.” In other words, they aren’t “food”, but they do things to our food. Many additives are actually derivates of foods, like paprika oleoresin, added for color…I mean, really…why not just use paprika, instead of a perverted form of paprika?

Because I want to ingest as little of this stuff as possible & because I don’t want my family to ingest it either, I make many of my own seasoning blends. This also allows me to control the amount of sugar & salt that is added to our food…I know, I’m a control freak…Son reminds me…often! Did you know that some Cajun seasoning blends contain over 30% salt? That means if you want more seasoning, you are also going to get more salt…a lot more salt, whether you want it or not. And many seasonings contain sugar or corn syrup derivates, but I don’t really want sugar in my tacos! So I am going to share with you my recipe for taco seasoning. It is sugar free & salt free, so you are free to adjust to your taste! This recipe is also free of sand & sawdust, so it may clump a little. Just break those little clumps up with a spoon & enjoy!

Taco Seasoning Mix

Servings/Yield: about 1 cup, enough to season 8 pounds of ground beef

  • ¼ cup chili powder (if you can’t find one at the store without all of the added “stuff”, try making your own with this recipe)
  • 3 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Method

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly. Store in an airtight container. Use 1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) per pound of ground beef. Brown ground beef, add seasoning, water, & salt to taste; simmer for 10 minutes.


I don’t know about you, but I just really don’t like coleslaw…at least the kind most people make. I don’t really know why, especially since I like all of the ingredients used to make coleslaw. Maybe it’s just too bland for my taste??? On the rare occasion that I actually eat coleslaw, I usually have to add LOTS of black pepper to give it a little flavor.

To my delight, a friend prepared a variation of coleslaw one evening when we were having dinner together…it was wonderful! This particular slaw takes inspiration from Thai flavors–cilantro, peanuts, sesame, & of course some heat. Recently, I made my variation of Thai Slaw for a fellowship meal at church. It got rave reviews & one friend asked me to post the recipe…so here goes. Some of these ingredients, like fish sauce, may be difficult to find in our backwoods…I mean, quaint small town. If you can’t find it, do what I do…look at a larger grocery store the next time you “go to town”.

Thai Slaw

  • cabbage, shredded (about 1/2 a head)
  • 1 large carrot, shredded
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup roasted & salted peanuts, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, snipped
  • Dressing
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • ¼ cup jalapeno, about 2 (can use Thai chilies or red pepper flakes, just adjust amount to taste)
    • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
    • 1 tablespoon lime juice
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
    • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Method

Toss together cabbage, carrot, & onion in a very large bowl. Puree together all of the dressing ingredients; pour over cabbage mixture & toss to coat. Add peanuts & cilantro; toss lightly so the peanuts don’t all end up on the bottom of the bowl. Best if allowed to sit for about 30 minutes before serving to let the flavors blend.

Notes

Also delicious with chopped red bell pepper & cucumber.


The Sunday after Christmas, Darren filled in for our ill pastor. As always, he started his sermon with a joke. To set up his joke, he felt the need to call me out on my obsession…ducks! He said, “Y’all have heard of Ducks Unlimited? That’s Karen’s philosophy…you can never have too many ducks! Right now, she has 57 ducks…and wants more! If she keeps it up, she will be known as the Crazy Duck Lady!” Well, he’s right…I always want more ducks…unlimited ducks!

I’ve been asked many times, “Why ducks?” Because they’re awesome! The follow-up question is usually, “Do you have any chickens?” No! Then I get asked why again. Because ducks are so much easier and sweeter than chickens. Ducks don’t scratch, so they don’t waste food by throwing it and don’t turn every patch of grass to bare dirt. Ducks have fewer health problems and are less susceptible to poultry lice since their feathers are coated in oil. And one of their best features is that ducks have a bill, not a beak! When you have to handle them or collect eggs, they can’t really hurt you because they can’t peck…that way the kids can enjoy gathering eggs, instead of being scared! (Taterbug has been helping me since he started walking.)

But, alas, at some point I can’t just keep collecting ducks. So today marks a milestone in my growing duck business…I made my first sale! Well, duck sale…we’ve been selling eggs for a while.

These are my babies who found a new home…5 pretty girls and one handsome fella. They are juveniles, hatched on Halloween, so they are almost full grown (about 6 more weeks to full maturity). A friend bought them and I know she’ll take great care of them…her kids will be collecting eggs in no time! Mama is gonna miss her babies…sniff, sniff!


After making more sausage this winter, we need to lighten things up a bit with some greens…& a little fiber never hurts, either! But, I know what you’re thinking…ugggh, or maybe, “I swore I would never touch greens again when I grew up & Mom couldn’t make me eat them anymore.” If you’re like me, you never liked greens growing up. The mere mention of greens conjures up images of canned spinach with sliced boiled eggs on top, or piles of stewed turnip greens that aren’t very green anymore. And, of course, aromas of sulfur (almost like rotten eggs) given off as the greens finally succumb to the torture of being overcooked.

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If this is your only experience with greens, you truly are missing out! Greens should be just that…bright green! I didn’t know this until a few years ago when I bought Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone, by Deborah Madison. I bought this book not because I was vegetarian but because I wanted to learn how to better cook vegetables…best cookbook investment I’ve ever made. It is by far the one I turn to the most, as evidenced by the handy removable sections & colorful stains on the pages!

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Now that my recipe inspiration is cited, back to the greens. Greens can mean collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, spinach, kale, even cabbage. When choosing greens, make sure the leaves are crisp…this lets you know they are fresh. Greens are grown in sandy soil, so they must be washed thoroughly. I fill up the sink with cold water & plunge in the greens…lather (just kidding!), rinse, & repeat (with clean water). Usually twice is enough to make sure all of the dirt and sand is washed off. Just check the bottom of the sink for sand after you drain the water. If it’s clean, the greens are clean. Now you will want to remove the thickest parts of the ribs, then chop the remainder. Usually, the leaves will strip off of the stem easily if you firmly grasp the stem in one hand & the leaf portion in the other & pull…hard. I find that chopping is most easily done by rolling up the leaves then cutting across them, like you would if you were making tortilla roll-ups. You can then cut across the rolled slices if you want to chop the greens even smaller.

We all know greens are good for us…naturally low in fat and high in fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, & iron…so dig in!

Greens with Beans

Servings:  4 (We enjoy this as a one-dish meal, in which case, it is really just 2 servings.)

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

½ medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

pinch red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced

¾ cup white wine

1 bunch collard greens, chopped (or greens of your choice)

1 can beans, drained & rinsed

salt

pepper

water

Parmesan cheese, grated, optional

Method

1. In a large skillet, sauté mushrooms & onion in olive oil until tender.

2. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, & rosemary; sauté until fragrant. Stir in wine & reduce to a syrupy sauce.

3. Stir in greens; cook until wilted. Add beans, salt, & pepper; stir together. Add water if necessary to keep the mixture loose. Top with grated Parmesan, if desired.

 


Or thereabouts, we should see some new little fluffballs! Our friends brought over their 3-year old female, Badger (below), to spend a few days with our very photogenic, almost 2-year old male, Bandit. Both of them are Great Pyrenees mix. We know they successfully mated, but both of them are newbies, so they are unproven. As can sometimes happen with first-timers, they became locked in love’s embrace…literally. You just haven’t lived if you’ve never had to physically separate dogs, or any animal for that matter, after successful mating! Now we just have to wait about 63 days for those adorable little fluffballs to make their entrance into the world!


Our latest adventure here at Hollydew Farm is bees! I’m so excited, and I just can’t hide it! Now, I don’t know nothin’ ’bout keepin’ no bees. Darren knows a little more than I do because his dad kept bees when Darren was growing up. My family, however, were more in the cattle business, with a few chickens, goats, rabbits, horses, and pigs on the side…but never bees. So, Darren and I did what all intellectuals do, we read some books and researched on the internet. By far, the most helpful resource has been Beekeeping for Dummies…yep, that about sums us up!

The first step in this new adventure is to buy the equipment…check! Next, paint the bee box parts…that’s where we are now. Once these are done, we will find a place to set up, blocking north winter wind and providing west summer shade…then getting the girls to fill it!