Community

What I Made This Week: Turnip, Pea & Kohlrabi Stir-Fry

I published a post today on our CSA’s blog, Monroe Organic Farms.  Just a quick one with a stir-fry recipe at the end.

If you’re here from the Monroe blog for the first time, feel free to look around and see what crazy farm-style hijinks we are up to here in the city… bees and chickens and garden, and a few other odd projects.  Plus green cleaning, clothes lines and other green-style stuff.  Welcome.

Also – there are a couple of days left to vote on this… Pick me!

Categories: Community, CSA, Food, Recipes | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Making the Most of Your CSA Share

CSA season is around the corner and I am very excited to start receiving a share again.  We have a month (plus or minus) until asparagus comes on!!  I would ideally love to grow everything we eat ourselves, but we just don’t have enough space.  And our CSA grows such beautiful, delicious food, I can’t resist signing up year after year. They take good care of their members, using a blog, Yahoo group and Facebook to help foster community.  They’ve even put together a cookbook full of recipes submitted by CSA members over the years.

All CSA’s are as different as the members and farmers who run them.  Since we are heading into our fifth year with Monroe Organic Farms, our CSA, I thought I’d offer up some of my best tips on making the most of your share.

1.  Open the bag and figure out what you have.  Most people get their share home after a long day at work.  It might be tempting to leave the bag sit until tomorrow, but it’s best to open your bag right away.  You will want to store some things right off the bat, and if there is anything delicate in there like lettuce or basil, you’ll want to get it in cool water or the fridge right away.  There’s nothing worse than waiting a day or two to get to your share and finding you let your green beans wither and die in the summer heat.

2.  Wait to plan your weekly menu until you get your share.  I pick up my share on Tuesdays, so I wait until Wednesday to go to the grocery store or market.  I spend a lot less this way, and I can plan meals around what we received in our share.

3.  Wash and store everything the day you get it.  I do my washing outside.  The potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips and onions all have a lot of dirt on them.  I used to do it in the kitchen, but then I had to sweep, mop and clean the sink too.  Instead, I dump my share on the lawn, hose it off and then sort it into what I want to eat right away this week and what I’m going to freeze for later.  Freeze what you’re going to save right away so it’s frozen at it’s peak.  It’ll be just as fresh when you go to use it this winter.

4.  Read the newsletter!  Every week you’ll get a run down of everything included in the share, plus important updates on upcoming distributions and events with the farm.  If you read it you’ll know just what that odd looking vegetable is, and you might even get a recipe on how to use it!

5.  Use the cookbook.  Don’t know what to do with a celeriac?  How should you freeze your extra beans?  It’s in the cookbook.  What to do with all those potatoes?  Not sure you like beets?  Try a new recipe.  All the recipes in the Monroe cookbook are from farm members.  They’ve all been tested by real people here in your community.  You might just get a new favorite dish.

6.  Get involved.  Read the farm’s blog and Facebook page.  Contribute to the yahoo group or the calls for recipes.  Come to the Harvest Festival.  This is the community in community supported agriculture.

7.  Understand that some things are out of our hands.  Some years will be bountiful pepper years, some will be tomatoes, some will be melons.  Usually never all three at once.  You might have been dreaming all winter of your strawberries only to have them hailed out (please no!!), or you might feel like you can’t shuck one more ear of corn.  But such is life when you are relying on the weather to bring you the freshest local food.  Enjoy your melon now, for in November it will be gone.

8.  Visit the farm.  See where things grow.  Check out the chickens, help load the shares onto the truck.  Connect with what you’ve invested in on every level.  Take advantage of the U-pick crops and the harvest festival.  It’s fun, you’ll learn a lot, and you’ll go home with even more delicious fresh food.

9.  Be gracious:  Be on time, return your bags, call ahead if you can’t make it.  Remember that your farmers and the volunteers at your distribution center are people too.

Do you participate in a CSA?  What are your best tips for making the most of your share?  If you’ve arrived here from the Monroe blog, share with us your experiences, favorite part of the CSA and what you are looking forward to most this year!

Categories: Community, CSA, Food, Sustainability | Tags: , , , , , | 14 Comments

SOPA/PIPA Blackout

Because I love blogging, ███ ██████ ████████ ██████████ ██ ████ ██ ████ █████████ ██.  ██████ ███.  This has been found in violation of H.R. 3261, S.O.P.A and has been removed.

I’m showing support today to protect our freedom of speech on the internet.

I’m asking you to do the same.

http://americancensorship.org/

See you tomorrow.

Categories: Community | Leave a comment

The Homestead Resolutions for 2012

I hope you all have enjoyed the holidays so far.  Our family has agreed that this was ones of the best Christmases we’ve had in a long time.  Health-wise, we are in a holding pattern and I’ll keep the blog updated if anything changes on that front.  In the mean time…

The other night, my Hard-Working Hubster looked at me and said, we need to set some goals for the new year.  Yeeah… I’m not so into New Years resolutions, and I sort of figured he was hinting at setting financial goals, which are my least favorite, so I was not really excited about what I figured he was about to say.  But, it turns out that’s not what he meant at all.  He was referring a bit to my 101 in 1001 list and some other personal goals, as well as to some things we’d like to do together.

Something that I’ve been working on in 2011 and really want to continue to work on in 2012 is building community.  I loved that last year our next-door neighbor enlisted our help to put in a garden and then shared his harvest with us.  He’s up for round two this year and I want to keep the momentum going on things like that.  I’d really like to strengthen the community between our neighbors on our block.  I also want to increase community between other friends that live nearby but are further out than our immediate neighborhood.

One thing I really want is to increase our self-sufficiency on the homestead.  I want to grow more food and process our own chickens for meat.  But by “self-sufficiency” I don’t mean by ourselves.  I mean, “not relying on the grocery store.”  And, I really want to make a fun special place for the kids in the garden… something they can look forward to, play in or around, and take care of.

So with those things in mind, here are my top five goals for the Schell Urban Homestead for 2012.

  1. Grow a giant pumpkin.  The neighbor has already volunteered a spot in his yard for this.  We’re scouring seed catalogs for the biggest one we can find.  It’ll be a pet project, but out in his front yard for the whole neighborhood to see and monitor.  And the kids can really get in on this one (I’m hoping).  Maybe in the fall, when it’s time to harvest we can do something cool with the results!  
  2. Grow enough in our own neighborhood gardens to feed ourselves for the summer.  I’d like it to be our own garden in our own yard, but I’ve realized this just isn’t realistic.  We eat a lot of veggies and have a lot of people to feed and not much garden space.  So instead of setting our sights on the impossible, I’m hoping to make it possible between our place, the next-door neighbors and the neighbors across the street.  I think they are all open to this.
  3. Process chickens.  We wanted to do this last year – order meat birds or a straight run of chicks and then process them for the table.  It didn’t work out in 2011, but I’m hoping we can work it out for 2012.  This will include culling any hens that are eating eggs and getting egg production numbers to where they should be.  Yay homegrown protein!
  4. Harvest Honey.  Our bees are still here, doing well, and we’re hoping to get a good harvest this coming year.  We even have a neighborhood contact to help us with the first go-round. 
  5. Start a monthly potluck circle involving neighbors and homegrown or locally raised foods.  I really, really want to do this.  I’ve mentioned it to a few friends here and there, but gotten no real commitments.  I might just have to jump in for it to take off.  ??

What about you?  Any gardening goals for the new year?  Is community a part of the goals you are making?  How do you plan to get others involved?

Categories: Beekeeping, Chickens, Community, Food, Garden, Top 5, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

A Season for Family

I’ve realized from about October to February, is our season of family.  Hunting alone facilitates a great portion of this, and then the holidays manage to cement the rest.  We just don’t have time to spend with many friends, as much as we’d like to.  Family really takes priority.

During the harvest season, I think it is easy to start feeling like you are drowning in the work of a homestead.  I generally feel like I tread water pretty steadily around here, but after a spastic comment on the Apron Stringz blog, when both CJ and Erica of NWEdible reached out to me to make sure that I was alright, I realized my Shiny-Happy exterior was cracking a bit.  While I’m afraid that the comment I left came across way crazier than I intended, the truth is, I have been somewhat overwhelmed.

In April, Rick’s dad was diagnosed with ALS  (aka Lou Gehrig’s disease).  I’ve sort of kept this under my hat, since Rick wasn’t keen on talking about it with anyone, even in person.  He got pretty tetchy when I mentioned it to our neighbor (who is getting to be like family) and to our midwives while I was still pregnant with C.  So I’ve kept it off the blog all this time.  But I started bracing myself.  I’ve seen diseases before.

I’ve had the unfortunate experience of watching my own father pass away.  He was diagnosed with lung cancer when I was fifteen.  Lung cancer has a 15% survival rate and a lot of people treat you as if you deserve to get it.  But my dad hadn’t smoked in over 20 years before he was diagnosed.  The cause of it was more likely asbestos from being a mechanic or possibly having the polio vaccine tested on him while he served in the Air Force.  Or seeing as he had lost a sister to lung cancer, had a brother that got (and beat!) prostate cancer and a father that died of multiple myeloma at 58, maybe cancer was just in his genes.

But my dad was determined to live.  He had surgery, most of one of his lungs removed, chemo and radiation.  He beat the cancer.  He was cancer free for 8 years before his body, racked by the treatments he received, gave up on him.  I was so grateful that my dad lived to walk me down the aisle, to know Rick.  It was hard to watch my dad, superman in my eyes, go from 6 foot tall to 5′-1″.  To see him lose weight.  For me to never sleep in peace, afraid that his oxygen machine would sound an alarm in the next room if my dad quit breathing, even for a moment.  To see his big, strong mechanic’s hands turn soft and thin.  He died at home in 2004, the day before my 23rd birthday.

ALS makes cancer look like the freakin’ flu.

With cancer, there are treatments, even cures for some.  Hope.  With ALS, there is nothing.  Just waiting, watching, making your loved one feel comfortable as they lose the ability to make their muscles work.  The prognosis for ALS is more than bleak.  Stats vary, but we’ve been told that up to 70% of people diagnosed with it die within 18 months.  It is always fatal.  Less than 10% live longer than five years.

Rick’s dad was beginning to show symptoms last October, though we didn’t recognize them.  He’d been feeling weaker for a while longer before that, but just chalked it up to being tired.  He just turned 51 last month.  Because of my experiences with my own dad, I keep expecting to see things plateau with him, but the disease has not slowed at all.  In April, his words were slurred, by May he was hard to understand.  By June or July, he would only answer yes or no questions out loud.  Now it’s even hard to tell the yeses apart from the nos.  His hands and arms are atrophied pretty severely, so he can’t write.  This past weekend, they gave him a feeding tube.

Through this, my, uh… “greenisim” is wavering.  I’m feeling the urge more an more to take the easy way out.  To throw the proverbial grey water down the drain instead of out the window.  (Here’s where the crazy comment on the Apron Stringz blog comes in).  Part of me doesn’t want to care anymore where my food comes from.  I want to turn the heat up to 69° from 67° and not feel any guilt.  Bag the whole Riot for Austerity.  Throwing in the towel looks appealing.  Part of me is wondering why I should care about organically grown green beans when my father-in-law is struggling to swallow.  I’m wondering if  we can sustain our sustainable life style?  And is it worth it?

The truth is, I know in my heart that it is worth it.  But I need to find a way to be ok with what I can do right now.  Maybe the Riot is beyond my reach at this point in our family’s journey.  Maybe CJ’s Quiet Riot, or even just tracking our energy use is good enough for right now.  Maybe I need to be ok with the things we are doing and hold the space while our family gets ready to walk through the coming grief.

I’ve known somewhat more loss than anyone in Rick’s family (all his grandparents are still living), and I know my strengths can be quite helpful in hard times like these.  The loss of his dad is going to be a devastating blow.  And I’m grateful to have this time with family right now.

So here I am, holding the space.  And turning up my thermostat to 68°.

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Categories: Community, Sustainability | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

reCAP Mason Jar Caps

Sorry for the lack of posts this week and only minimal last week.  We’ve been ridiculously busy between hunting and H’s birthday and such.  I’ve got a couple of posts in the works that should hopefully be up soon.  But in the mean time, I had to share this.  Thanks to Erica for pointing me in this direction.

I had to share about this project – the reCAP Mason Jar Cap and the cool site, kickstarter.com, that is helping the reCAP’s inventor get funding.

The reCAP is a BPA free, recyclable, reusable plastic screw top cap to fit regular mason jars.  It’s a one piece design, great for pouring.  And it’s inventor is getting funding through people’s online donations on the site kickstarter.com.  I believe she has already reached her funding goal of $10,000 by November 8th, but people can still back her project  (as little as a dollar or up to $350) if they are interested.  I did, and in return I’ll get to try one of the reCAPs as soon as they are made (projected to be January).

I had to share this because I think both the reCAP and the kickstarter site are great ideas.

Check them out here:  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1917107415/recap-mason-jar-caps

If you are an entrepreneur, check out the kickstart site.  The site collects pledges for you and if your goal is not met, nobody looses out, but if it is, you get the money you need to get started.  Fabulous!  So much better than a loan!

I can’t wait to try my reCAP!

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Community, Recommended Reading | Tags: | 6 Comments

Occupy Denver

Saturday night I went down to the capital building to the Occupy Denver protest.  Denver is one of over 1500 cities showing solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York.

Saturday afternoon there was a march on the state capital.  4000-5000 people joined together to march down 16th street.  I couldn’t get down there in time for the march, but I went with C and Manuel, my mom’s husband, to join the few hundred remaining protesters around 6:00pm.

I’ve never been to anything like this.  The Occupy Wall Street movement is a peaceful protest, but the Denver police department and Colorado state patrol lined the streets in full riot gear.

As we walked down Broadway from Colfax, the citizens started moving into the street, chanting “Police are the 99 percent!” and the police line backed up.  I got chills.  I was almost moved to tears, and I wished I had my camera ready to get that on video.

We spent some time walking around among the protesters.  We got a lot of warnings to “get that baby out of here, before they gas us.”  One guy warned us that we were taking her into a “really volatile area.”  I have to admit, after the third or fourth such warning, I was a bit intimidated.

Manuel shot a few videos with his phone and in one, you could hear a citizen shouting, “They have automatic weapons.  Why do they need automatic weapons?”  I was glad to be there and also nervous.  I wonder just how far we are entrenched in this bizarre culture of fear. In reality, it really was pretty calm.

Rick and my mom were watching the news reports, and the police began making arrests.  Around 6:30 we saw two people getting arrested for “blocking traffic.”  Odd since the police were the ones in the streets, and the street was completely shut down anyway.  The citizens stayed on the sidewalks and in the park for the most part.  And after reading a few news stories I realized just how much is sensationalized.

The whole time we were there, we didn’t hear any people shouting “shame” at the police.  We did however hear chants and shouts of “Protect the kitchen!” when the protestors gathered around the food tent, linking arms, to keep it from being trampled to the ground.  And chants of “Peaceful. Peaceful.” as the police formed lines and advanced on the group in the park.

We stayed until about 7:30pm when we saw several more police vehicles show up followed by a couple of ambulances.  The police had formed lines, seven or eight officers deep and started advancing on the crowd.  As Manuel and I walked back to the car, I stopped and asked an officer on the fringe of things why they were in such heavy gear and out in such force for a peaceful protest (hey, I figured they wouldn’t arrest or pepper spray a lady with a baby strapped to her).  The officers were polite, and explained their position (you know, being prepared, just in case, and all that).  Of course they are just doing their jobs.

I realize that attending a protest for just an hour and  a half, and leaving when things start to get heated totally makes me the diet soda of protesters.  But it was more than nothing, and I plan to go back in the very near future without Cora.  I still won’t be able to stay – she is breastfeeding and I can only be away for so long.  But I plan to keep showing my support in little bites and chunks as I can.

There are probably a lot of people like me that might want to stand up, but for some reason they can’t be at the protest (or like me, have little kids and may not want them in such a charged environment).  Here are a few simple things that anyone can do to help, without attending a rally:

  • Close your bank account with a large bank and open an account with your local credit union instead.
  • Buy local or handmade items for all your holiday gifts, or better yet, make gifts yourself using locally sourced materials.
  • Buy your food at a farmers market instead of from big corporations.
  • Make your own food at home instead of going out or buying it in a box (granola is just oatmeal, honey, oil and nuts baked in the oven – this is a great alternative to cereal).
  • Gardeners, buy non-GMO seeds from seed companies not owned by Monsanto.  Here is a decent list of which are safe and which to avoid.
  • Sign a petition online or in person.
  • Donate supplies to your local Occupation.
  • Donate money to the cause.
  • Spread the word.  Facebook, Twitter, email, telephone, blogging, whatever!
  • Pay in cash!  Credit only helps serve big banks.

I also realized that a lot of people still don’t understand what Occupy Wall Street is all about.  And why would I be posting this on my homesteading blog?  Food Democracy Now posted that,

4 firms control 84% of beef packing, 66% of pork production and 1 company (Monsanto) controls more than 93% of soybeans and 80% of corn grown in the U.S.

Occupy Wall Street will affect us all.  Here are a few good articles that might help in understanding what the Occupation is all about:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rep-keith-ellison/occupy-wall-streets-real-_b_1009368.html

http://www.businessinsider.com/what-wall-street-protesters-are-so-angry-about-2011-10?op=1

http://www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/the-most-important-thing-in-the-world?utm_source=wkly20111014&utm_medium=yesemail&utm_campaign=mrKlein

Or simply…

Now is the time.  Spread the word.

Categories: Community, Recommended Reading | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Jam Fever!

Last weekend, we went to Palisade for our annual trip to Bracken Orchard to pick peaches.  We drive 240 miles over the mountains, each way, so we want to make sure we make the trip worth it.  This year, we came home with 368 pounds of peaches (slightly less, since about half a box was Fuji apples).

   

We had 15 pounds for my sister and 40 pounds for some friends, but the rest we’ve been working on getting put up for the year.  Most of them are sliced and frozen in quart-size bags, and many get made into various jams for our use during the year and for gifts.  We canned some a few years ago, but we feel like the frozen ones are more versatile and last us longer.  Plus they are easier to put up and take up less space.

True to form, I decided to defrost 40 pounds of the plums that were given to us last year at peach time.  We didn’t have time then to process them properly, so of course I thought we’d have time this year!  What is wrong with me?!? I spent the whole week making plum jam while Rick sliced and froze the peaches.  I didn’t get all the plums done before some started to smell “off,” but I got most of them taken care of.  Smarter people would have just defrosted a little at a time.  Then I moved onto the peach jams.

This has been the most fun I’ve ever had jamming though.  My friend Kristen has been a godsend, coming over twice to make jams.  We got a little crazy the second time, trying new recipes.  I spent a good portion of my grocery budget last week on organic Madagascar vanilla beans, green cardamom pods and various liquors for our jam.  Some combos we tried:  Peach with Honey, Vanilla Bean and Brandy (wow – the smell!), Plum Lavender (AMAZING!!), Peach-Plum Ginger, Plum Noir (ooh lala!), and a couple of original creations, Kristen’s Honey Peach Cobbler jam, and my Jalapeno-Honey Plum.  We’ve had a ball.

I’ve even ordered special jars.  I hope they arrive by this weekend (I plan to make Peach, Blueberry and Grand Marnier jam and my favorite traditional peach preserves), but if they don’t make it, I’ll use them next year. I found most of these recipes on the Punk Domestics site, by the way.  If you put up – you should definitely check it out!

So what are your favorite ways to use peaches?  Plums?  Any awesome jam recipes?

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Community, Recipes, Recommended Reading | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

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