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Well it's mid January and in last few days the wind has been screaming like a banshee! The gardener in me says that spring is just around the corner, even though we have at least one more month of winter. But that's okay. One day last week, despite the wind, I went out to the garden and I decided to fluff up one of my potato beds. It looked flat as pancake, but just a few swipes of the potato fork and the compost fluffs back up. I pulled out some old grass from last summer along with a couple of weeds, and what do you know, some lone potatoes that hid from me in July!

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That's okay, I just made soup. Take that potato! I have six more beds just like it that need to be fluffed and turned, plus an asparagus bed, one that is planted solid with garlic at this time, and one that is full of perennial herbs, making 10 beds total. The other garden chore that I'm looking forward to soon is pruning my new fruit trees. They're still small but that's okay. I'm told good things come in small packages.... But I digress.... fruit trees... I have apples and peaches from Lowe's (Hi Mary Jane!) that I plan to prune in the vase shape, and training the limbs out and down. This'll be my first year, but I think it'll be good.
So that's where my head is with the garden.

In the meantime, it's cold so let's get in the kitchen! In December, we talked about making cheese, and I hope you all gave it a shot. Two weeks ago, I butchered 20 Cornish cross chicks at about one pound each and have been enjoying them like crazy! I saved all their feet, as chicken feet make the absolute best tasting and healthiest stock there is. Before you flip out on me and say "eewww yuk! You eat chicken feet?" Let's start by saying in many cultures, specifically Asian, chicken feet are deep fried crispy and eaten as a snack the same way eat we eat nachos or peanuts in the shell. "But chicken feet are gross and dirty!", you may say. Well yes and no. Most people don't know that chicken's feet have two layers of skin. My white birds had yellow legs and feet.

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If you dip those feet in hot water for 10 or 20 seconds that yellow layer peels off much like snake skin peels off a snake.

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What you're left with is nice white-pink skin just like the the skin on the rest of the bird. The outer layer of the toenails come off too!

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The main reason I love using chicken feet is because, the most nourishing part of the chicken is in the boney parts like feet, necks, wing tips and back bones.

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As the bones are simmered in salted water, the collagen that is in the cartilage in all of the joints, as well as the marrow inside of the bones, dissolves and mixes with the flavor of the meat and the skin. What you're left with is by far the most nourishing of all drinks around. It's best to simmer it for two or three hours even after the meat is cooked. Once the bones completely fall apart, you know you're done. After I strain the soup, I tossed the remaining bones and skin to my chickens! The ultimate in recycling!

From here you could do any number of things. You can throw in cans of white northern beans along with the leftover meat, a few shakes of garlic and cumin, maybe some red pepper or anything else you want to do and you got yourself some good white chicken chili. Or you could just add some ginger, a few shakes of soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, thin slices of raw onions and some glass noodles and you got a quick Asian soup. Today, I chopped up a few baby carrots and some of the potatoes out of my garden this morning. A few shakes of ginger and curry powder and some noodles I made from scratch a few weeks back and called it good! And boy was it good!

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Now if you do not have access to chickens, you may find chicken feet at most Asian and Latino grocery stores. In Siloam Springs, I have found them at La Michuacana on Mount Olive Street next to Torpedo's sub shop, as well as the Oriental Food Market on 412 just west of Harps. They are clean and ready to go when you buy them, and prices may vary from store to store, but they are not expensive. Any event, they're definitely worth the trying, so if you're willing to walk a little on the wild side, I say go for it! What have you got to lose?

And speaking of chickens, with the days getting longer, my birds have started to lay again! Yet another sign that spring is on its way!! And speaking of spring, there will be more on winter-sowing and root sprouting coming up! So hang around!   

Jill Barlow


Future articles will include information about gardening, meat birds, egg birds, photos and lots of project ideas.

For further information, to ask a questions or to suggest a program topic, contact Jill Barlow at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..