My hard drive crashed last Saturday, and it took with it, into the Great Digital Abyss, all my photos for my upcoming posts. Had I backed up my files? Who needs to do that, right? So bear with me while I re-cook and re-photograph everything once again. On the plus side, this gives me a chance to retest all the recipes.
On Saturday I also spent the morning at the farm just down the road from my house. My mother and I attend a class there on Raising Backyard Chickens - a wonderful way to spend Mother's Day weekend, if you ask me! Herbert, our teacher (who also builds some pretty cool chicken coops), was so well informed and laid back. I learned so much about chickens that I almost feel confident about raising my own sometime in the future. Almost.
I truly love this farm! The architecture of the ancient, stucco farmhouse. The towering pines that line the road. The lush, green rows of vegetables planted row after row that stretch the length of the property. The little, red mobile chicken coop that is constantly moving; it becomes a game for my kids to find the chickens as we drive past on the way to school. And the two fluffy white dogs, Lewis and Clark, who live with the chickens and guard them day and night from predators seen or not. They faithfully rise and greet us as we approach the hens' little red house now hidden from the road, behind the farmhouse and down a little hill. Everything about this place makes me feel like I've stepped back in time to rural Tuscany. I take a deep breath of the cool, fresh air and don't want to leave.
We spend a lot of time with the chickens. Little ones, only a month old, run surprisingly fast on stick-like legs to the safety of their barn when we get too near. I marvel that such a large building is used to house these tiny ones. But they are happy. They have space to run, fresh air to breath, sunshine to bask in, and plenty of bugs to hunt.
Then we visit the older, laying hens. We laugh as one finds a worm in the wet soil and is promptly chased around and around the yard by all the other hens, eager for a bite. Through a mud puddle and under a pyramid of pallets she runs. She splashes through a swimming pool, and then tears through a group of geese (and one duck who thinks she's a goose) who scatter and squawk their protest. When the chase becomes dull, she finally enjoys her worm in peace. Such a stark contrast from those images we're not supposed to see of factory-farmed hens crowded so close together in sad, dark warehouses, unable to move and never to see sunlight. No, these are happy, healthy chickens, and you can tell.
Inside the coop, the wall is lined with nesting boxes. In nearly every one there sits an egg, if not two. Blue, brown, and white eggs nestle together in the soft, well worn straw. Still so warm, they soothe our frozen hands when we reach in to gather them. We don't want to put them down. As we stand there, chickens come and go. Singing celebrations whenever an egg is laid; the excitement quickly spreads to the hens outside, then the cocky rooster joins in with his happy song. This is a very noisy place.
I came home more excited than ever about the meat, eggs, and produce I'll purchase this summer from Venetucci Farm. I can't wait to share it all with you.
The next morning was Mother's Day, so I decided to bake a batch Blueberry Muffins (you know how much I like muffins, right?), and take the rest of the day off. I was sorting through my spices, looking for the cinnamon which I normally add to my Favourite Blueberry Muffins, when I saw the lavender. The little purple flowers caught the light in such a way as to say, Add me. Add me instead. I stood there vacillating. Should I go traditional; tried and true? Or should I branch out; add the lavender and see what happens?
Actually the decision wasn't that hard, as I love lavender in just about anything, and the results were wonderful. My family kept asking What's that flavor? Lemon? Orange? Cardamom? The muffins were gone by the next morning.
Blueberry Lavender Muffins
3 Tbsp soft butter
1/4 cup fine sugar
1/4 cup coarse Turbinado sugar (plus more for sprinkling on top)
2 cups white whole wheat flour (I like King Arthur)
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 tsp baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp lavender
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup organic blueberries ( I use frozen)
Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C). Line a 12 cup muffin tin with liners and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
Cream the butter and sugars with a wooden spoon. Add the flour, salt, baking powder, eggs, and milk. Mix well. Slightly crush the lavender flowers and fold them in along with the vanilla.
Fill your pan and sprinkle a little more Turbinado Sugar on the top of each muffin. Bake for 25 - 28 minutes, until nicely brown on top.
Shared with: Sweet Tooth Friday, Monday Mania, Melt in your Mouth Monday, Hearth and Soul, Full Plate Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Foodie Friday, Real Food Wednesday, Family Fresh Meals