Life on Regal-Hill: April 30, 2008

Life continues here at Regal-Hill as if it were late spring rather than early spring. “April showers bring May flowers,” they say. However, it makes me wonder since we have had so little rain this year in April. I have had to water the flowers that are in blossom since it has been so dry. I can’t ever remember watering daffodils and tulips before.
The birds are such a joy to hear this time of year. Early in the morning they begin to sing and they sing all day even into the evening. We think the swallows are back, as George saw a couple of them in the barn. One lonely goose was seen flying over the brook while I was walking yesterday. When he tried to honk it didn’t sound very loud. Apparently he had strayed from the flock. We have also heard mourning doves, real phoebes, robins and red-winged blackbirds as well as grackles.
Some bird has already built a mud nest under the eaves of the schoolhouse. The bird I saw nearby didn’t look like a barn swallow. Its beak was longer and it was all brown in color.

Rain needed
The lawns and fields are growing even though they need rain too. Wheat was planted here as a cover crop in the neighbor’s garden a few days ago. Thinking it was going to rain, the ground was prepared and the wheat was planted so as to take advantage of the rain that we didn’t get, although later in the day there were plenty of dark clouds in the sky and I thought that we would at least get a shower. I wonder if this isn’t the first time anyone has planted wheat in the Catskills since wheat isn’t a crop most farmers would grow in this area.
Some farmers are busy spreading manure that has been stored all winter, also lime and fertilizer on their fields so they will produce lush green grass for cow feed. However, if we don’t get any rain and since so one can afford to get an irrigation system, it would seem that the crop production will be less desirable this year. Gardens will probably not do any better unless they are watered on a regular basis. Maybe we will all have to go on a diet and eat small meals so the food goes farther.
I continue to enjoy the warm weather but I really wonder what will happen if we don’t get some rain soon since it is so dry and dusty, even here in the country.
Wild leeks will soon be ready to dig. Perhaps you are like me and don’t cook with leeks unless it is the season to eat wild leeks. There seems to be a number of recipes for leek soup available so I went on-line and found these recipes that use leeks but are for other than soup recipes.

Squash and Leek Lasagna
10 ounces lasagna noodles, preferably whole wheat
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 medium leeks, pale green and white parts only, thinly sliced and washed thoroughly
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups nonfat milk
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 2-pound butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded and grated using the large hole side of a box grater.
6 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated, using the large hole side of a box grater
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook noodles until not quite al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package directions. Drain; return the noodles to the pot and cover with cool water.
Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leeks; cook, stirring often until softened, about 6 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the leeks; stir well. Cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Whisk in milk in a slow stream and cook, whisking constantly, until thick and bubbling, 8-10 minutes. Whisk in thyme, salt, nutmeg and pepper. Remove from heat.
Assemble lasagna in the prepared baking dish by layering one-third of the noodles, one-third of the sauce, half the squash, one-third cheese, half the remaining noodles, half the remaining sauce, all the pine nuts, all the remaining squash, half the remaining cheese, all the remaining noodles, all the remaining sauce and all the remaining cheese. Cover with parchment paper then foil.
Bake the lasagna for 50 minutes. Uncover and bake until bubbling and lightly browned, 30 to 45 minutes more. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: 12 servings
Online recipe

Mutton Stew Recipe
1 tablespoon butter
700 g. (1-1/2 pounds) boneless lamb shoulder meat, sliced or in chunks
1/4 medium cabbage, in thin wedges
1/4 small rutabaga, sliced
1 large carrot, in chunks
15 cm (6-inch length) leek, in chunks
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 dl (3/4 cup) water
2-1/2 tablespoons butter
3/4 dl (1/3 cup flour)
Melt the butter in the bottom of a pot. Add the meat, then the vegetables. Sprinkle with salt, ginger and pepper. Pour over water to cover. Bring to a boil and skim well. Lower heat and simmer, shaking the pot now and then so the meat won’t stick, until the meat is tender, 60-75 minutes. Melt the butter and stir in the flour. Gradually add cooking liquid. Season with salt, pepper, vinegar and sugar. Arrange meat and vegetables on a platter. Serve with sauce and boiled potatoes.
Yield: 4 servings
Online recipe