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Author: Robin

Bacon & Blue Cheese Dressing

Bacon & Blue Cheese Dressing

Bacon & Blue Cheese Dressing

My all-time favorite dressing is Bacon & Blue Cheese. We use it as a salad dressing, with wings, and even on burgers and steak. This is another recipe that’s easy to adjust to your tastes. One cup each of blue cheese and bacon crumbles makes a chunky, thick dressing. Blue cheese can be quite tangy, especially if it’s aged so adjust the strength of the blue cheese flavor by adding a smaller amount. Add more after a few hours if the flavor isn’t strong enough.

Watch the bacon. If you have a bacon with little or no flavor, skip it. It’s going to be completely lost here. A good bacon will hold its own and add flavor to this Bacon & Blue Cheese recipe.

bacon & blue, bacon blue cheese, dip, dressing, On The Fire, blue cheese dressing, bacon dressing, bacon dip, bacon recipes

Bacon & Blue Cheese Goes With…

As I type this I have Baked Beans in the oven, bread almost ready for the oven, and venison and pastured chicken thawing in a sink of cold water. It’s a cooking day so I’ll nibble all day as I taste the beans, have a bite or two of venison, and a cup of chicken and rice soup. I’ll cut up broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, bell peppers and celery for a veggie tray and use this dressing for the dip. As dip, I like this thinned with a little milk. For steak, chops, burgers and baked potatoes, I leave it thick. The veggies will help balance everything on my plates today.

Lower Fat & Calories

This recipe for Bacon & Blue Cheese dressing isn’t low fat by any means. You can lower the fat by using low fat mayonnaise and sour cream.

You can chop partially frozen bacon into quarter-inch cubes and pan fry it to lose a little more fat. You’ll still have all the meat and flavor.

No matter what you do, it’s still a high-calorie food but moderation makes a difference.


Bobcat on the Homestead

Bobcat on the Homestead

Bobcat on the Homestead

I’ve been waiting for him. Let’s call this bobcat “him.” Could be a female, I don’t know yet. I’ve been waiting for a bobcat to show up. We know they’re here year round but we don’t see them until mid to late February, when it’s been a hard winter or the snow is deep. The blizzard and subsequent storm provided the deep, soft snow. It’s unusually warm so the snow is compacting and dropping but still, I knew he’d come. I set up a bait site a few weeks ago and hadn’t been out to check it in 12 days.

The bobcat wandered through Sunday night and found the site. Something, probably an ermine, chewed the bottom of the onion bag and let the pork trimmings drop in chunks to the ground. The cat isn’t that hungry. It put no effort into reaching up for the pork or the fish hanging 18 inches away.

Preventive Measures

I’ve been waiting so the ducks and chickens are locked safely away in the coop unless I’m outside with them. I go out a little early for evening chores and let them out. The ducks have a bath and the chickens eat a little snow (why do they love snow so much when they’re not thirsty?) and then they put themselves back in for the evening. They might be a little bored but they aren’t unhappy. I’ll buy a half-dozen heads of lettuce and hang them from the ceiling to give them something to do.

He arrived first in the dark. He comes and goes often, was here in daylight on Tuesday, and back again at midnight. I brought more food out Wednesday morning and will check the site from a distance on Friday morning.

Bait Site

Although this is legally a bait site it’s not a site being hunted, and so the site doesn’t have to be labeled. Bobcat season ended February 21. I expected the coyote to stumble upon or smell the bait but to date the bobcat is the only large animal visiting.

Living With Bobcats

We killed the first two bobcats that killed our poultry. It’s our responsibility to keep our charges safe. When the third cat killed two ducks we learned how to live with not one but two cats. These tips should help you prevent attacks and make your homestead less inviting.

  • Bobcats don’t want to be around our homestead. They show up only when the snow is soft and deep, they’re unable to hunt well, the snowshoe hare population dips, and the winter has been long.
  • Put game cameras out and if legal, place bait to hold the cat’s interest in front of the camera. This will help you know what’s there. You can deal with what you know and by knowing, you can take extra measures to keep livestock safe.
  • Keep livestock of all kinds behind sturdy high fencing. Cats climb and canines dig under. Add an angle extension at the top, leaning outside the pen, and bury 12″ of wire to deter digging.
  • Have livestock guardian animals. LGD’s (livestock guardian dogs), llamas and donkeys work well.
  • If it’s legal, feed a starving cat away from the homestead. We thought we’d kill the third cat but didn’t catch it in the act (legal requirement when hunting season is closed). Talk to your game warden or equivalent about what you can and can’t do. It kept the bobcat away from our poultry because it was no longer desperate enough to take its chances.
  • Don’t feed pets and livestock outside.
  • If someone’s up during the night hit the panic button on your vehicle’s key fob or blow an air horn. Bobcats hunt day and night. An active homestead is likely to be comfortable for a bobcat. If you’re not outside, hit that panic button now and then during the day. (We do this for bears.)
  • Scare crows with human scent and clothes that move with the breeze.
  • Have the dogs mark their territory, and you can as well. This bobcat marks its territory under the bait by peeing in the snow.

Bobcat Photos

One camera says January but it’s February. I keep forgetting to change the date when I change batteries.

bobcat, bait, hunting, maine

bobcat, Talmadge, bait pile, game camera

bobcat, Talmadge, Maine, big wild radio

The bobcat moved away from the bait site and picked up the snowmobile trail into the food plot.

bobcat, snowmobile trail, game camera, food plot


After My First Cup of Coffee

After My First Cup of Coffee

I was on a roll this morning. After my first cup of coffee I shoveled the packed snow from in front of the hen house door. Steve usually plows a wide path past the hen house and firewood tunnel, and then on to the edge of the woods. Not this time. There’s too much snow. Officially we got 24″ during the blizzard but after being out in it this morning, I disagree. I’ve shoveled and roof raked, walked on and through, and measured in several places. It’s closer to 30″.  The ducks came out through the people door to get to their water in the path but got distracted and headed for their pen. They won’t be in their pen until most likely April. It’s too much snow to shovel to get to their little door into the pen.

blizzard 2017, after my first cup of coffee
after my first cup of coffee, mailbox in snow

Roof Raking. It’s a Thing.

after my first cup of coffee, hen house door, blizzard 2017With the birds tended to for the day I raked the porch roof. Metal roofing helps snow slide off but it’s not as helpful as I expected. The roof doesn’t have enough pitch, something we can’t change. Had I known I’d still be roof raking I’d have voted for a much more attractive traditional roofing. Anyway. I also shoveled the snow off most of the back porch. The ermine has a tunnel through the snow that’s about 18″ off the ground, and I was careful to leave it as intact as possible. Most of the cleaning up from the blizzard is done…just in time for the storm that starts tomorrow afternoon. We’re supposed to get another six to twelve inches. Yeah. <—sarcasm I’m going to need more coffee.

I’m not complaining too much. We had bare ground under big softwoods two weeks ago and little snow after that. There were frigid days here and there but no long cold snap. It was an easy winter up until the blizzard. I’m protecting my work time carefully these days as I write, and I’m enjoying the new routine I’ve set up. Being snowed in is nice.

After my now third cup of coffee, it’s time to hit the book.


It’s a Blizzard Out There – Blizzard 2017

It’s a Blizzard Out There – Blizzard 2017

It’s a Blizzard Out There

It’s a blizzard out there. I’m sure the weather service will call it officially. Conditions must be winds of 35 mph for three hours and visibility reduced to a quarter-mile or less due to falling or blowing snow. We’ve got that. I turned into a human plow to get through the drift on the back porch on my way to the hen house this morning. It’s worse since then. Steve is off work due to weather for the first time in 26 years.

We’re well prepared with firewood, water, and gizmos plugged in to be 100% charged if the power goes out. There’s always more than enough food to last until the plow can get out. Speaking of the plow, I haven’t seen it since last night so it’s likely grounded until the storm starts to slow.

Blizzard 2017 Photos

The hen house is about 125′ from the house.

it's a blizzard out there, blizzard 2017, hen house
it's a blizzard, porch, blizzard 2017
blizzard 2017, blizzard out there
snow in window, blizzard 2017, it's a blizzard
white out, blizzard 2017, Maine, it's a blizzard
it's a blizzard, out the window, blizzard 2017, blizzard conditions

Present in Winter

Present in Winter

Present in Winter

There’s a blizzard coming. I watched the moon set in a clear sky, setting behind bare birch and maple trees this morning. It was 0°F when I went out to do chores. It felt like 0°F but not colder. No wind, not even a breeze. “Phoebe Phoebe Phoebe” from the chickadees caught my attention. I’ve been reading a lot of excited “_____ happened, spring is coming.” And lots of groaning about cold and snow and winter. You see where this is going, don’t you? Lots of not being present in winter. Alive and well but not really participating in the moment at hand.

The only time you can see a stunning winter sunset is in winter. Right now. Well, unless you’re on the other side of the world… You won’t want a blanket to cozy up with by the fire in August. There will be no snow days in July.

winter sunset, present, be presentYes, spring is coming. In spite of a blizzard that’s going to drop upwards of 26″ of snow on us, bring us 50 mile an hour winds, and build drifts that could reach ten or more feet, spring is coming. So is summer. Autumn is also coming. And so is winter. Next winter is coming. I’ll just duck now while the virtual snowballs fly.

present, snowshoe, JetsledThe chickadees are singing songs that start in mid-winter, the time we’re presently in, and carries into spring and summer. I enjoy the song as it is right now, a mid-winter jingle that makes me smile. The American goldfinches are getting a little brighter now, a sign that daylight is getting longer. My Khaki Campbell ducks are laying, another sign of extended daylight. Yes, spring is coming, but the birds are doing what birds do in the dead of winter. They’re present in the moment.

I’m not dreading the blizzard (but do dread the wind, as always). I’m planning to spend the day writing by the fire, probably without electricity so I’ll write by hand. We’ll get to the work of preparing for it in a little while. The storm will start this evening and not end until early Tuesday morning. It’s a long one. We’ll over fill the wood rack so we don’t have to bring wood in until Wednesday. I’ll fill buckets with water, bring fresh straw and warm water to the hen house just before dark, and make sure the dishes and laundry are done. If the power goes out I don’t want to have a pile of laundry or any dirty dishes in the sink. We’ll be preparing for the near future while being present in the moment.

Be present in winter. It’s here for however long it decides to be so why not make the most of this season? Snowshoe, read, knit, write, binge on television and music. That’s my plan. Plan? More of the garden. Plot shenanigans. Think ahead. Look forward to spring but be present in winter and don’t wish time away, eh?


Mac n Cheddar Cheese

Mac n Cheddar Cheese

Mac n Cheddar Cheese

Baked Mac n Cheddar Cheese is a favorite for lots of us. I never tire of it. This is nothing like the bright orange powdered cheese mac that comes in a box. I used Clothbound Chedder from Grace Hill Farm in Cummington, MA. I found the cheese at Boston Public Market on a weekend trip with Taylor to visit Kristin. You should use your favorite cheddar. Or, use Gouda. If a cheese melts well and you like it, use it. You could add a little Mozzarella to make it stringy. I wouldn’t use all Mozzarella but maybe 25% of the total cheese would be great.mac n cheddar, mac and cheese, homemade, macaroni and cheese

Changing it Up

If you want to change up your mac and cheese you can add two teaspoons of dry mustard, or a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. I like to saute mushrooms and onions and add them to the cheese sauce. Remember those “helper” boxed meals you add a pound of ground burger to? You can fry your burger and add it to mac and cheese. Or, how about some slightly steamed broccoli? Variety is good!


Chicken Marsala – Great with Upland Game Birds, too

Chicken Marsala – Great with Upland Game Birds, too

Chicken Marsala Recipe

When I mentioned to a friend that this week’s recipe is Chicken Marsala she said, “I thought you weren’t going to get complicated.” It sounds a little fancy, doesn’t it. This is a simple recipe. It takes a little time but it’s worth it. The Marsala is wine.

There are a few steps to Chicken Marsala but they’re more time-consuming than complicated. It’s worth the effort! Read the recipe a couple of times if you haven’t made it before. Then follow it step by step and you’ll catch yourself agreeing with me – this is simple. This works well with grouse, pheasant and other upland game birds.

If you’re cooking for a large group you can make this ahead of time. It will warm nicely in the oven. Great served over mashed potatoes or noodles, it’s a recipe most everyone will love.

Chicken Marsala, noodles, On The Fire

Keep Poultry Water Thawed Longer

Keep Poultry Water Thawed Longer

Keep Poultry Water Thawed Longer

Disclaimer: I learned how to keep poultry water thawed longer from Staci at A Chick and Her Garden. Check out her blog. I found her when she shared this method in a Fb group and then couldn’t find her again weeks later. Thanks to Staci for emailing me this morning. I have to tell you how gracious she is – she’s humbled that so many people appreciate her method. I’ve added her blog to my Feedly so I don’t miss new posts. Although I’m not writing many entries here these days I am reading quite a few new-to-me blogs.

I was skeptical. It gets really cold here! The closer the temperature is to 32°F the longer the water stays open, of course, but this makes a big difference as low as 0°F. My ducks and chickens get their water in a Fortex pan in the pen and a small Fortex bowl in the hen house. I doubt this would work well in the solid plastic water with a white top and red bottom that I use in the warmer months.

Fill a 20 ounce drink bottle with 1/4 cup of salt and hot water. Place the bottle in the water pan. It won’t keep the water from freezing but it will keep it accessible longer. It took two days for the birds to figure out that if they pecked at the open water around the bottle they could get to more. The water in the bottle never freezes but the water in the pan does eventually freeze solid on the coldest days.

Switching Bottles

I have two sets of bottles. One set is always in the pans. When it’s very cold I bring the second set in and warm them in the pot of water kept on the wood stove for moisture. The water pans are very cold so I take hot water. By the time it’s poured into the cold pans and the birds are let out it’s cooled down to warm. Instead of making three or four trips a day to the hen house and pen I’m making only two, morning and evening. Animals need to be well hydrated to stay warm most efficiently.

A few people have asked if I’m making the birds less hardy by giving them warm water. I don’t believe so. They’re surviving -25°F nights so they’re certainly hardy. I do believe I’m making those long nights easier by keeping them well hydrated and healthy.

poultry water, chicken water, winter

As simple as this!
Fortex pan, keep poultry water thawed