Archive for June, 2014

Two of our Maine Bird Families

Eider Ducks

Common Eider Ducks (Somateria mollissima)

I know there are lots of bird families underway in the dense mixed conifer/hardwood forest that nestles against our Maine home, but two are very visible.  The Eider Ducklings are seen swimming with their mothers and aunties  in several groups inside our reef.  When we arrived for the week I counted nearly thirty ducklings but that number has been reduced by about ten.  Their main predators here are the great Black-backed Gulls.  Although I haven’t seen it this year, it is a horrifying experience to watch one of these large gulls alight in front of the hapless mother and gobble down a few of her ducklings, almost before I know what’s happening.  One of their defenses is to travel together with the younger un-mated females (known as aunties) in a behavior known as cooperative breeding.   When threats are near the adults will close ranks around the ducklings and try to fend off attacks.  Eiders are our largest Northern Hemisphere ducks, but the ducklings are tiny and extremely vulnerable.

Dark-eyed Junco, feeding her newly hatched chicks.

Dark-eyed Junco, (Junco hyemalis) feeding her newly hatched chicks.

Yes, I realize the window is very dirty!  I hope you can make out the Dark-eyed Junco and the nest.  She built her nest on the base of an old Phoebe nest which had been used for several years.  The nest rests atop the siren for our security system and I certainly hope there is no breach of security while this little family is in residence.  It’s under the eave of the dormer and seems an excellent choice for a nesting spot as it’s out of the sun and wind and hidden from predators by the flare in the siren.  None the less, she takes great care when she approaches the nest, waiting, caterpillar in beak, checking back and forth for several minutes before quickly flying in to feed her chicks.  Here’s hoping for the Junco’s nesting success and for at least a few of our little Eider Ducklings to survive.

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Beautiful Maine Sunrise

IMG_2258This was the view from our Maine deck this morning when I arose early to enjoy the dawn chorus.  I was looking out over a passage called “The Thread of Life” which allows boat traffic to pass from the Boothbay Region to Pemaquid Point.  With the summer solstice just a day or two away, this is the furthest north the sun rises.  In mid-winter it rises just south of Monhegan Island.  Our dawn chorus today began with the Northern Parula’s buzzy notes climbing the scale, followed by a Yellow-rumped Warbler right above my head in a Wild Cherry tree.  Ah, the fresh clean air of a tension-draining new day in Maine!

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Garlic Scape Pesto: “How To” Video

I’ve finally tried it, making a video that is.   Follow this link to view it.  In my maiden voyage I’ve made several “rookie errors,” one of which is forgetting the crucial matter of what kind of cheese to use (Pecorino Romano or Parmesan).  Another thing to remember is that this recipe is flexible, depending on the taste of the cook.  I notice now that I used 1/2 the volume of walnuts in the video, whereas in the link to my earlier post, I used 1/3.  To me this just shows how very flexible it is.  Many who viewed it from my Facebook page asked if I could show it being used, so I thought I’d post it here as well because I have previously done several posts about this terrific vegetable, being used both in its fresh form and as Pesto.  Pasta Primavera , Stir Fry with Chicken and Snow Peas  , and one about Garlic Scape Pesto itself, showing it used with rice and twice baked potatoes.  It’s also great mixed into salad dressing and tossed with pasta.

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Snap Pea Season Begins

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These edible podded or snap peas are what I grow instead of snow peas.  They last longer on the vine without becoming tough.  The seed catalogs have them listed as Sugar Snap or Sugar Ann and they are sensational when stir fried.  I picked a quart of them yesterday and had a lovely stir-fry lunch of the peas with sliced jicama (a good substitute for water chestnut), sweet red bell peppers, onions and garlic.  I added dried jalapeno and kept it simple using gyoza dipping sauce to bind it.  For a dinner, you could add a protein like chicken or salmon.

Yum!

Yum!

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Muhammara: A Dip Both Unusual and Fabulous

This is how we prepare the red peppers for this tasty dip.  Sear them over the gas flame.  There are other ways, don't despair!

This is how we prepare the red peppers for this tasty dip. Sear them over the gas flame. There are other ways, don’t despair!

I first encountered this Lebanese appetizer in Maine, believe it or not.  It evidently is available in jars from specialty stores and on line, but since I usually have an abundance of red peppers at the end of the season, I decided to make it myself.  The key ingredient is pomegranate molasses, once again available on line, although you can also make this yourself by boiling down pomegranate juice.  For the “chippy part,” I buy the small pitas, cut them in 1/8ths, separate each 1/8th so I end up with 16 triangles from each mini pita.  I then toast them in the toaster oven until brown (maybe 3 minutes).  Here’s the recipe:

  • 3 large, very ripe red bell peppers (roasted peppers from a jar could be used, drain well and rinse)
  • 1 C. high quality fresh bread crumbs (I use whole wheat)
  • 3 mashed garlic cloves
  • 1 C. chopped walnuts
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • ½ C. pomegranate molasses (or to taste, I use more)
  • 1½ tsp. ground cumin
  • 3 tsp. Tabasco (or to taste)
  • 1/3 C. olive oil
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  • (serve with pita chips)

Turn the peppers over a flame or burner or broil them until blackened all over.  Put in a paper bag to cool for about ½ hour, then peel and seed, removing the white ribs.  Put all ingredients in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and puree. This recipe makes about three cups.  Store it in one cup containers as it freezes well and is very handy when an unexpected friend drops by for drinks.

 

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