Independence Days

Independence Days – Week 11

This week was much better than some of the previous weeks.  Turns out that getting some exercise (endorphins) and spending some time outside in the sun (vitamin D) can do wonders for the mood, body, mind and spirit.  The beginning of the week was actually a little rough (it was all cloudy and overcast) but the weekend made up for it nicely, with the sunshine and the gardening!  Also it helps that I was able to see friends more this week as well.

Here’s a picture of the bulk storage I mentioned in last week’s update.  And here’s what we were up to this week:

Plant something – watermelon, pumpkins, spinach, basil, more tomatoes, marigolds, turnips… um also some grass seed where we’re trying to patch up the damaged back lawn.  We don’t have a lot of grass back there, but what little there is has been burned by Josie over the winter.  We’re hoping it will recover a bit.

Harvest something – eggs, lettuce, spinach

Preserve something – um – nothing, and I actually have to take back last week’s asparagus (it was on Rick’s docket to-do, but we ended up eating it all instead!).

Waste Not – compost and recycling, reused some scrap boards in the garden.  Also decided that we’ve been silly not giving the grass clippings to the chickens, so they got two bags full on Sunday.  It’s been raining a lot, and the grass had grown like crazy – lucky birds loved it!

Want Not – made an impromptu garden plot in the back yard – with a raised bed.  We used our own compost – finally – in this bed, and Rick made it out of some left-over scrap lumber.  I really love how it looks.  It has tomatoes (for me and H to snack (or as Rick would say, “graze”) on, basil, and carrots.  Plus some marigolds.  This is pretty much H’s little plot.  Especially since it’s in the back yard, and he loves carrots and tomatoes.  And the raised bed is nice, so he knows where he can’t step.  Plus he picked out the marigolds all by himself.

Build Community Food Systems – gave some extra tomato plants to the neighbors, had another neighbor’s five-year old daughter help us plant in the back yard.  It was so cute and fun and I got some great snapshots of her and H. (Stay tuned for the pictures – will try to get them posted this week).

Eat the Food – mmm…. spinach and lettuce from the volunteer plants has been delish.   Opened the last jar of pumpkin butter.  Rick magically found more tomatoes (I swear I don’t know how he keeps doing this?!?!!) in the freezer so we’ve been enjoying those.  Bacon and ham steaks (ham and eggs fried rice!) and eggs, of course.  Also another batch of hummus. Finished the last of the antelope burger and some kale in some tasty Italian wedding soup (or our own rustic version at least)!  For that we used the recipe in this post, but we substituted antelope for turkey, kale for escarole and our tomatoes from the freezer for the canned (a common substitution in our house).

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Categories: Chickens, Community, Food, Garden, Independence Days | 3 Comments

Independence Days – Weeks 9-10

The garden is a bit behind where I’d like it to be, but there is still time, as Rick keeps reminding me.  So here’s what has gone down in the last week or two or three.  ;)

Plant something – tomatoes, beets, kohlrabi, eggplant, quinoa, onions, kale, rhubarb, squash, radishes… this is off the top of my head, so I might be forgetting something?

Harvest something – eggs, lettuce, spinach, asparagus

Preserve something – asparagus.

Waste Not – compost and recycling.

Want Not –  Realized that I could use my empty canning jars to store some bulk items like rice and granola.  This looks so much nicer in my cabinet and it’s much easier to find things then a bunch of bags all jumbled together!

Build Community Food Systems – um – I don’t think there’s much here.  We did have the neighbor over for dinner one night?  And I did find out that my friend Julie joined the farm and will be working on the same day as me (woohoo!) this summer.  :)

Eat the Food – Jelly, ribs, and corn gone; been munchin’ fresh asparagus, made a big batch of hummus for the first time.  Rick’s been diligently using all our frozen tomatoes and every time I think they’re all gone, he magically pulls another bag from somewhere!  The peaches are still delicious.  The pickled beets are gone now.  The boys have been using frozen melon in smoothies.

What about you?

Categories: Food, Garden, Independence Days | 3 Comments

Independence Days – Week 6

Plant something – nothing (AGAIN!  UGH!)

Harvest something - eggs and dandelion greens

Preserve something – nothing

Waste Not – compost and recycling.  Also – been thinking that Rick’s biking to work might fall in this category, since it saves gas?  Gave away the old washer & dryer on Freecycle as well as a few very tired cloth diapers.

Want Not – Rick roto-tilled the garden and the place where we’re going to plant Concord grapevines this year.  So excited!  Also, I found a place to make a new cover for our bike trailer for less than a replacement cover from the maker would have been if a cover were available (it’s not).  This is so great since we love this trailer and I got such a good deal on it.  (And we use the bikes so much in the summer). 

Build Community Food Systems –  nothing

Eat the Food – some pickles, tomatoes, pesto, pork shoulder, peaches….. trying to eat exclusively from the pantry & freezer this week since I feel a little meated out (with all the beef and chicken we ate over the last month or so).

Categories: Food, Independence Days | 1 Comment

Independence Days – Weeks 4 & 5

I realize this report is late late late.  I’ve already started documenting week six for us as well, but I wanted to get these past two weeks posted, so I’m not SO far behind.

It’s been a busy couple weeks here at the homestead, and we still have nothing in the ground.  But good friends were in town, and we were able to see them and spend some fun time together.  I did contact someone about a dairy cow share (though it is SO expensive, I’m not sure if we’ll do it).  And I was able to get some yummy fruit!

I’ve struggled finding blog writing time, though I am finding I have a bit more to say these days.  Now if only I could manage to get both boys to nap at the same time, I might get to write it.

Plant something – nothing

Harvest something – eggs

Preserve something – nothing

Waste Not – compost and recycling

Want Not – Week 4: sold my small size cloth diapers.  Yay for recouping some of the cost, and rebuilding the kiddos bank account.  Also finally joined free cycle.  Planning on offering a few things on there next week.

Week 5: Rick finished the compost bin.  Unfortunately, H & Josie are fascinated with it and keep opening it up and then the chickens join in and we end up with compost over half the yard… so still a work in progress I guess on that front.

Build Community Food Systems – Week 4: 30 # organic heirloom tangelos from Arizona.  A farm friend got a bunch of boxes all at once and shared with friends.  And they are SO good!

Week 5: I called the landlord of the four-plex across the alley from us.  We’ve noticed that over the last few years, although they have a lovely mature green grape vine nobody ever harvests them.  So we asked and he said we could help ourselves (not sure if this really benefits anyone but us, but at least the grapes won’t be wasted)!

Eat the Food – used the last of the carrots and asparagus, two hams at Easter, tangelos for the ham glaze, can’t remember what else…

Um – also so big this week, I received my certification to teach!  yay!  I’ve went ahead and ordered my business cards and some charts!  Yay yay!!!

Categories: Food, Independence Days | 2 Comments

2010 Independence Days – Week 3

Plant something – we have volunteer spinach & lettuce!  (ok, I know that’s not planting, but yay)!  We did hit the garden center this week and came home with bucu seeds.  So far, I’m sad to say, nothing new has hit the dirt – but I’m not supposed to post what I haven’t done! 

Harvest something - eggs had a banner week for 2010 thus far: aprox 27!

Preserve something – nothing

Waste Not – compost and recycling. Rick worked on the compost bin construction this weekend.  It should be done next week! 

Want Not – so fortunate – Rick’s grandparents gave us a gift certificate to the garden center for Christmas, so we used two-thirds of it on seeds this week.  We have a little left to go towards tomato plants and any flowers I may want come April/May.  Also – we got a packet of seeds from Rick other grandpa – kholrabi from Slovakia!  These seeds are super special and we are so excited to plant them! 

Build Community Food Systems – served up all that green chili (I made aprox 3 gallons last Saturday) on Tuesday. 

Eat the Food – asparagus soup again (we had friends over),  carrots from the freezer for corned-beef & cabbage on Wednesday and pot roast on Friday (this was a beefy week – very unusual, we NEVER buy beef!),

No recipe to share this week.

Categories: Chickens, Food, Independence Days | 2 Comments

2010 Independence Days – Week 2

Plant something – so nothing yet.  :(  BUT that will not be the case next week!

Harvest something - eggs: Mayzie laid a tiny egg this week.  She hadn’t laid all winter, so we’re grateful for something at least, no matter how small…

Thankfully, we got a couple full size ones from her later in the week. 

Preserve something – froze half a batch of the soup below for later. 

Waste Not – compost and recycling.  We are also now reducing the energy we use to wash and dry our clothes… see below!!!  We’ve been brainstorming ways to store all those empty jars (since we’ve been eating our preserves, beets, pickles, jellies, etc.).

Want Not – OK, get ready, this is HUGE!  Our neighbor (the amazing Mr. Mitchell) GAVE us a practically new front loading, energy-efficient washer and dryer!  His friend had to move quickly, and sold the washer and dryer to our neighbor for $200.  So we are going to pay our neighbor the $200.  But these machines are less than two years old, and the same models are still sold at Sears for over $650 each.  So to me, $200 for over $1300 worth of appliances is the same as giving it away.  (!!SQUEAL!!!) – Yes, that’s right, I’m squealing like a little girl over a washer and dryer.  (Bonus – crossing item #36 off of my 101 in 1001 list!)

Got the garden plan drawn up and ready.  Forgot to mention last week that I borrowed my friend Jen’s copy of Carrots Love Tomatoes, and read through it pretty quick.  Great little book – very handy and quick to read. 

Henry and I spent some time cleaning up the garden on Wednesday… moved out the drip system (that was left out all winter – oops!), put the limp remains of plants we did not pull out in the winter into the compost pile.  Basically, we got it ready to be roto-tilled.  None of the above is planting, but we are preparing and I didn’t know what other category to put it in.  :) 

      

Build Community Food Systems – Total revamp of the CSA blog this week.  Been working with a few other farm members to make it great.  Check out the new digs: http://monroeorganicfarms.wordpress.com.  Took green chili to a party to share. 

Eat the Food – venison, bacon, butternut squash, beans and asparagus, a big pot of green chili using pork and chiles from the freezer.  We’re trying to use up all the frozen asparagus before the new crop is in at the farm!  Yum Yum - I can’t wait to go harvest the good stuff this year!  Usually we use a soup recipe that is mainly asparagus and shallots, but this week I had some extra bacon lying around, and no shallots.  This is what I came up with, and we really liked the smoky flavor the toasted garlic and the bacon gave the soup. 

Toasted Garlic and Asparagus Soup

4 slices bacon, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 small onion, chopped
1 head of garlic,  chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried thyme
3 Tbs flour
3 lbs asparagus, cut into 2-3″ long pieces
2 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
1 1/2-2 tsp salt or to taste
1/3 cup heavy cream

In a 4 quart pot, cook bacon over medium-high heat until crispy.  Remove some of the bacon pieces and reserve to garnish the finished soup.  To the remaining bacon, add the chopped onion.  Saute until the onion softens, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic, thyme and red pepper flakes.  Continue to cook until the garlic begins to toast, but do not let it burn.  Stir in the flour.

Add the asparagus, chicken broth and water.  Stir and season with salt to taste.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 4-6 minutes, until the asparagus turns bright green.  Remove from heat.  Using an immersion blender (or working in batches using a regular blender), blend soup until smooth.  Stir in cream just before serving, and garnish with reserves bacon pieces. 

Categories: Food, Garden, Independence Days | 7 Comments

2010 Independence Days – Week 1

So – the first week has passed and I am excited that we have a few things accomplished, though not many. 

Plant something – nothing yet, but we are getting a plan together.

Harvest something - eggs – we’ve been lucky that our hens have laid through most of the winter with no heat lamp or anything. 

Preserve something – nothing – would have done the tamales, but they were too good and had to be eaten straight away!

Waste Not – compost and recycling.  We had to find a new place to take the recycling, since the local place moved away. 

Want Not – Rick started cleaning up in the yard a bit this weekend.  A bit more of this to do until the garden is ready to plant. 

Build Community Food Systems – Made a big batch of tamales with my friend Jen last Sunday.  I brought home about 25.  We were going to freeze them, but they were SOOOOOO tasty.  So we kept them in the fridge for quick lunches.  That’s good too though, since I often skip lunch if there’s nothing easy to eat. 

Also, joined the Advisory Group for the CSA.  I’ll be working on the web communications with a few other members. 

Eat the Food – We’ve enjoyed the pickled beets, canned and frozen peaches, elk sausage, bacon, basil pesto, and pablanos from the freezer this week.  Here’s the recipe for the delish tamales (from epicurious.com): Grilled Tamales with Pablanos and Fresh Corn – Yum Yum!  Oh – and Jen rendered the lard for us!  She went to buy lard, and the butcher at the store did not have enough, so he gave her some pork fat and we rendered it ourselves.  Easy and interesting.  No – we did not eat the chicharróns however.  ;)

Categories: Chickens, Food, Independence Days, Recipes | 2 Comments

Independence Day Challenge 2010

So, March 1st (TODAY) marks the beginning of a new year for the Independence Day Challenge.  It has not been a full year for me, since I started in 2009, but since Sharon Astyk, the leader of this challenge, is starting her year a little early, I am too.  I like to follow along, and her record keeping encourages me with mine. 

So what is the Challenge?  Well, in Sharon’s own words,

“…most of us would like to grow a garden with our kids, or make sure that we know where our food comes from.  We’d like to live in communities with a greater measure of food security, we’d like to know more about what we’re eating.  We’d like to have more contact with nature, we’d like to be more self-sufficient.  We’d like to have better food at lower cost, we’d like to have a reserve for an emergency or to share.  We’d like to do more in our community and to eat with one another.  We’d like to sit down to a home cooked meal more often.

We want these things but we don’t know how to get them, in large part because when we think about growing a garden or preserving food, or working in our community, we imagine we must allot large chunks of our time.  We imagine it is impossible – because we know we can’t pull hours every day out of our frantic schedules. 

But what if we didn’t have to?  That’s what the Independence Days Challenge encourages all of us – busy working families and farmers, city dwellers and suburbanites and country folk – to remember.  That is, it isn’t all or nothing, we don’t have to wait until we have a whole afternoon free or are on vacation.  What if we could do it gradually, just a little bit every day or week – what if we only had to plant our few seeds today, and tomorrow, pull a couple of weeds and harvest two salads, and the next day make three jars of jam? 

What’s amazing about this is how fast it adds up – a few minutes here and there turn into a much greater degree of self-sufficiency.” 

Sharon has written a book, Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage and Preservation, and I think her work with her family is quite inspiring.  She says,

That’s why I think food preservation and storage matter so much.  Ultimately, we are talking not only about the fairly manageable question of what to have for dinner, but also  about about transforming our society, our use of energy, our food culture, and, of course our culture as a whole.”

The challenge works like this:  Every week commit to writing down what you’ve accomplished in seven categories (listed below).   The only rule is don’t list what you didn’t do.  Because it is so easy to get blinded by what we haven’t done, that we don’t see our  accomplishments.  This is about your successes.

The seven categories are (and I mostly quoting Sharon’s descriptions here):

1. Plant something – In Sharon’s words, “it should be a reminder that gardening isn’t “put in the garden on memorial day and that’s it” – most of us can grow over a longer season than we do,  and enjoy fresh foods grown through spring, summer and fall, and even into or through winter in many places.  Even if you live in an apartment, you can sprout seeds.  So keep on planting!”

2. Harvest something“as soon as you pick the first dandelion from your yard, it counts if you ate it or preserved it.  Don’t forget to include food you forage – whether from wild marginal areas, or even just from the neighbor’s trees that he never harvests (ask, obviously).”

3. Preserve something – Canning, dehydrating, natural cool storage, and for me, freezing (though Sharon’s not big on freezing).  “It doesn’t have to be overwhelming – and it is a way to preserve what is plentiful, inexpensive, delicious and healthy for a time when there is less of it.”

4. Waste Not–  “Once you’ve got food, whether purchased or home preserved, you have to keep an eye on it – we waste nearly half of all food, much of it in our homes.  In this category goes making sure you use what you buy or grow, cutting down on garbage production by minimizing packaging and purchasing, composting, reducing community waste by composting or feeding scraps to your animals, and taking care of your food storage – everything from keeping records and writing dates on jars to checking the apples and making sauce when they start getting soft.  BTW, reduce waste also refers to money and energy – stretching out your trips to the store and not “spending” gas on your food, cutting your grocery budget and reducing cooking energy.  These are things that are good for the planet and good for all of us.”  – Couldn’t have said it better.

5.  Want Not – The stuff you’ve done that isn’t growing/storing/preserving food goes into this category.  “That means the food you buy for storage, the things you build, scavenge, rescue and repair that get you further down the path.  Did you get a good deal at goodwill?  Scavenge some cinder blocks for your raised bed building project?  Share with a neighbor?  Find a grain mill on Craigslist? Buy some more rice and put it away?  Inventory the medicine cabinet? Pick up a new book that will be helpful?”  This category is about preparing and helping yourself.   

6. Build Community Food Systems“Great, we’re all doing this stuff at home.  But what did you do to help spread the message, because that may even be more important.”  Things like donating to a food pantry, teaching neighbor kids how to make yogurt, talking about your food storage plans, bringing a casserole to a new neighbor.  As Sharon says, “The first line of security for all of us is each other – we are all enriched by a more food-secure community.”

7. Eat the Food“Ultimately, eaters have more power over our agricultural future than they know – farmers can’t necessarily lead the way – they have to sell what eaters want.  So cooking and eating are the way we will change the food system.  This is where you tell us about the new recipes you tried, or the old ones you adapted to new ingredients, about how you are actually eating what you store and store what you eat, or getting your kids to try the kale.”

So here’s to 2010 – wish me luck, and join along if you like!

Categories: Food, Independence Days | 3 Comments

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