Monday, August 2, 2010

The Dog Days of Summer--4 Farm Dogs and Buckwheat Bunnies

I have a soft spot for dogs and many farmers have canine companions. (It's also one reason you should leave your own dog home when visiting farms.) I also love to take photos of dogs on the farm or when I spot them at the market. This white dog on the huge compost pile is Buzz at Rent's Due Ranch in Stanwood. "[The compost pile] is his favorite place to sit," says JoanE of Rent's Due. On market days Buzz stays at home, patrolling the fields, but not all dogs are left behind on market days.

This past weekend, Liz and Michael of Grouse Mountain Farm near Chelan came to the market with Blaze, their elderly farm dog. "Take a look at who's in the back of our truck," Liz said. So I jumped in and snapped this picture.

Once they returned home, Liz said, Blaze thought she was going somewhere wonderful and was probably really disappointed because all she got was a boring ride and long market day with nothing to do but nap. Liz says for fourteen years Blaze has been the best farm dog, scaring bears away from the pear and plum trees and keeping them company on the long harvest days.
Another farm dog, Tito of Ayers Creek Farm, was adopted shortly before I visited the Boutard's farm near Gaston, Oregon in 2008. Tito immediately felt comfortable heading out to the fields each day with Anthony and when I told Carol Boutard that Tito's photo had been selected for The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook, Carol said, "We always thought Tito had been a model in his former life and had given it up to pursue his dream on the farm."

Farther south in Oregon, Suzy Fry of The Fry Family Farm near Talent, introduced me to their farm dog Zeus who rode with us to their farm fields just outside of town. Zeus took in all the scents along the way and like other farm dogs Zeus is energized by the farm, fields, and wildlife. The farm dog has long been part of our American farming landscape and beyond sheep and duck herding, these dogs are great at keeping wildlife away crops.
And finally, this is Chloe, not a farm dog, but Finn's housemate who in her former life went on field trials where hounds catch the scent of rabbits and give chase. Of course field trials have absolutely nothing to do with farms or gardening. (I'm just trying to her her some face time on this blog.) But when we adopted her, we discovered she was really good at keeping squirrels out of our garden. She's also good at looking pathetically sad and if she had a chance, I know she'd make a great farm dog. But now that she's found a comfortable spot on the sofa, she's reluctant to give up the easy life of a city dog.
For all your four legged friends (and maybe a few of your two-legged friends), here is a great gluten-free dog biscuit recipe from my first book, Local Vegetarian Cooking:

Buckwheat Bunnies

(Makes 76 biscuits)
These are the only bunnies Chloe chases now. I've also eaten these as crackers but if you mention you're eating dog biscuits to friends, your friends may be reluctant to sample one. Many people aren't enthusiastic about sharing the same food with dogs even if it contains human grade ingredients and was home baked. So if you like them and want to share, call them crackers, please. And by the way get a fabulous bunny cookie cutter at Mrs. Cooks or your favorite cooking store. Then surprise your canine companion with these very cool biscuits.

3 cups buckwheat flour
1 cup millet flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large baked, peeled and mashed yam or 1 14-ounce can of yam puree
1/2 to 3/4 cup peanut butter (or hazelnut butter)
1/4 cup molasses
1 1/2 cups water or vegetable stock

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Place yam, peanut butter, molasses and 1 cup vegetarian stock in the blender and puree until smooth. Stir liquid ingredients into flour ingredients, adding more stock if necessary. Keep stirring until a stiff dough forms. Then, oil your hands before attempting to shape the dough into a ball.

Make the cookies immediately or place the dough in a covered container and refrigerate for up to a week before using if you want. When you are ready to roll the dough, preheat oven to 350F. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper. Divide the dough in half and put half in the refrigerator. Roll dough to about 1/4 inch thick, then cut with the bunny cookie cutter and place as many as you can on a baking sheet. It doesn't matter if they are touching. The cookies will break apart when done. When you are finished with the first ball of dough, do the same rolling and baking procedure with the remaining dough.

Bake for 40 minutes. They should be fairly hard when baked for a very crisp texture, turn off the oven and leave overnight.

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