Eat Local – Fight Big Food!

I was just looking at the Mother Earth News Website, something I don’t do often enough.  There is so much great information there.  Anyway, I clicked on the Farm Aid video from the 2006 Farm Aid concert and found it really interesting and inspiring.  So, here is the link.  Take a look and enjoy. 

http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1911416491/bctid894795069

I know I don’t even have my garden planted yet, but one day I would like to be able to grow enough to share with my community on a larger scale.  I’m not saying I want to be a full scale farmer, but with the USDA getting ready to approve GE corn developed by a company that makes pesticides, knowing where my food comes from is going to be really important – more and more as time goes on.    The new GE corn is being slated as useable only for ethofuels, but corn is wind pollinated.  That means that eventually, the mutated corn will end up in our food and animal feed supply.  And this is only the tip of the future iceberg.  People, the government is not only taking over our financial system, its taking over our food supply.  We can’t afford to give up control over the very food we put in our mouths.  Its an environmental issue, too, but for me, its more.  Its my health, my future and the future of my descendants.  Americans have to take a few steps back in time.  Small scale agriculture was once the backbone of this nation and needs to be again.  There has to be connection between soil and crops.  We can’t keep over-chemicalizing our very lifeblood – the soil we grow our food in – and expect to be healthy.  Why do you think there is such a epidemic of cancer and other killer diseases in this country?  We’ve stripped our food of nutrition by forcing depleted soil to over produce all for the almighty dollar. 

Let’s take back our food – one trowel at a time!   Let’s educate our children and grandchildren.  We have to get back to being healthy from the ground up, so to speak.  We can’t expect to plant chemicals and reap real food.  The government isn’t going to listen.  Not to the everyday Joe like you and me.  They are going to do what they damn well please.  So we have to control what we can and we can control how we eat.   I am fortunate to live in an area that has one or two good farmers markets within a reasonable distance and a growing locavore culture.    I want to be more of a part of it.    You can, too.    Take a look around your community and do some research.  Talk to local officials and get permission to plant a community garden.   If you’re already a gardener, perhaps local schools would be interested in fresh produce or perhaps you can help kids plant a garden and they could take the produce home to share with parents that might then be inspired to plant at home.  Let’s not forget the homeless.  I live in a big metropolitan area and there are more and more people out with signs every day.  Perhaps the local shelters could use some help setting up and planting gardens to feed their patrons.   What about some other ideas?  I’m all ears.  Comment and let me know what you think.

Keep it simple.

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Corrected Bread Baking Notes

I had it all wrong.  The notes I shared on my previous post, Harvestyme Bread,  on how to proof your bread quickly were incorrect.  The following instructions are straight from the baker’s mouth, so to speak. 

“What I did for the water, I heated it up until it almost boiled, place in the oven;  you can even have it on the some rack when proofing.  When doubled in size, knead dough for 5-6 min. At this point I would not place the dough back in the oven after you shaped the loves and place in pan. Just cover dough with a tea towel and let rise until double 45min. to an hour. About thirty mins. into the final rise start your oven at 450. When bread is ready to go into oven turn oven down to 350 if using pans. If you are using a pizza stone leave oven at 400. You can put a pan of hot water in the bottom of the oven but don’t use more then 1/2 cup.”

Hope this clears up any confusion.

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood….

Ah, the promise of Spring.  The sun is out in all its glory; there is light breeze (okay, it’s windy, but, hey, this is Oklahoma); the birds are singing; and I’m eating a great salad from my favorite neighborhood cafe. 

I’ve parked in my favorite summer lunch spot – a church with a parking lot full of shady pear trees.  Its just warm enough to roll down one window (not both, not that warm!) and listen to the little birdies.  There is a beautiful red cardinal hopping around and a big black grackle and a squirrel scurrying up the budding trees.  Wish I had a camera with me.  Since I don’t, just imagine the scene, have another bite of grilled chicken, candied pecans, and pineapple and just smile.

Keep it simple.

Harvestyme Bread

I had a great time last night!  The rescheduled bread class from two weeks ago (aka tornado night) was a blast.  Pat and Helen Kelley welcomed us to their bakery-beside-their-home, out in the country sort of, at the end of a cul de sac on lovely wooded land.   We mixed whole wheat bread and learned how to make bread dough rise fast.  The rising process itself is called “proofing” for all us newbies.  Anyway, to make your bread dough rise faster than the normal 2-3 hour process this is what you do: turn your oven on (the default setting on mine is 350, Pat said that was okay) for about 5 minutes with a glass pan of hot water on the bottom shelf.  Turn it off and put your dough in for its first rise.  About 1 hour.  And where is the speed, you say?  Most breads have to rise at least 1 hour.  Be patient!  After the hour in the oven.  Take it out, knead it down and divide into loaves.  Then return to the still warm oven for 12 minutes.  Viola!  ready to bake!  (Help me out here, Tricia.  The oven has not been warmed back up at this point, has it?  I got a little confused during his explanation.) 

Another tip: spritzing your loaves with a little water during the baking process will give you a nice hard crust. 

 Lightly score the top of the loaf before baking to allow for expansion in case all the air bubbles didn’t get kneaded out.   

When flouring your surface for kneading, use bread flour, not whole wheat, to avoid a sticky mess.  Even whole wheat bread recipes need a little unbleached white bread flour to assure that all the wheat grains get mixed up well. 

When using a mixer, mix until the dough balls up and the sides of the mixer bowl are clean. 

Pat had premixed some sweet breakfast bread dough, full of fruit for us to knead and make into loaves.  Those baked while we made the whole wheat bread.  He also baked his famous orange-cranberry scones and we all indulged.  (Yes, the one I took for my husband actually made it into his hands.  I did not devour it on the way home.)

Pat explained why he does not slice the breads that he sells at the local farmers’ market.  “Bread and air are not friends.”  Air dries out the bread and can introduce bacteria, etc. which quickens spoilage.  Just buy a good bread knife and slice as you need it.  Keep freshly baked bread wrapped in plastic in the fridge and it should last a while.  Now I know why the “other” bread I’ve been buying tends to get stiff and can spoil quickly.

I have been putting off buying a grain mill until this class to see if I would actually enjoy the process.  So, today I will be shopping online for a good grain mill (i.e. affordable and hopefully somewhat durable).  It would be nice if I could find a hand operated mill locally, but I’ve learned that even in a city as big as OKC, LOTS of things are not to be found.  I can’t even find a yogurt machine! 

Speaking of buying locally.  Lately I have been buying more and more of our weekly food supply from local providers.  I buy my eggs either from the Co-op or a local grower; I will now be buying my bread from Pat (worth the drive all the down into the city!).  That same farmers’ market has awesome fresh lettuce, eggs there, too.  You can even buy buffalo and lamb.  I buy my meat from the Co-op and even some health and beauty products.  I have started making my own laundry detergent (which reminds me, I need to go by Ace Hardware and buy a case of Fels Naphtha).  The more food I can grow or buy from a local producer not only makes my family healthier, but I am supporting LOCAL economy.  And in the light of the mess of our national economy, I would much rather be giving my money to my neighbor in exchange for my daily bread than Wal-Mart.  If you live in Oklahoma, you HAVE to check out the Oklahoma Food Co-op.  I buy wheat in bulk that I can grind for my flour for the bread I just learned to bake.   It has a statewide distribution system that is growing all the time. 

How do you eat locally?  Its really easy if you just do a little research.  Even if you live in an apartment, you can grow veges in containers outside your door.  Find a local community garden.  You may even have to start one, but what better way to get to know your neighbors.  Find a local farmers market or start one!  Its all about community.  Its all about healthier eating.  Its all about the freedom to take back our food system from the big corporate giants who have manipulated crops into fast-growing, chemical laden, cancer causing, nutrition-less glob.  Its about security in the face of a very possibly dismal food future. 

Okay, enough soapboxing for now.  Grind flour, bake bread!  Free the world from food tryrany!  Somebody stop me 🙂 ….

Keep it simple.

A Good Day

I came into work today and found a brand new, flat screen computer on my desk!  Woohoo!  I had known I was going to be getting a new one and had only hoped for a flat screen (you must remember that I work for an underfunded state agency and we don’t always get the latest and greatest), but lo and behold, here it is!  I’ve had to make some adjustments here and there and my bifocals are an issue, but I’m sure I’ll get it all figured out.  Doesn’t take much to entertain me! 

Well,  my husband has penciled me in on his calendar, so to speak, for 2 Saturdays from now to get the raised beds built for the garden!   Then the planting will commence!   I started the tomato seeds in a starter tray this weekend.  Not sure I did it right.  I’m really bad about doing something THEN reading the instructions as was the case here, but I figure I will just go buy plants if the seeds don’t come up like they are supposed to.  No big deal.  Can’t be a purist about everything – or is the word perfectionist? 🙂

I had a fun discussion with a friend on Saturday.  I think I have mentioned here before that I have started buying extra food and bottled water for crisis preparedness.  Well, my friend Jennifer has taken it to the next level.  She is buying bulk beans and rice and other things and storing it all in lined 5 gallon buckets.  They have also purchased a small generator to run their water well.  They are considering getting a small underground tank for fuel storage and have been stockpiling firewood for a while.  They live on 1-1/2 acres and have plenty of room to grow food and have chickens and other animals.  They can do so much more than we can on our housing addition lot.  But we can do a lot, too. 

Today, I’ve been researching how to build a simple solar oven from cardboard boxes and foil.  And I also want to research growing talapia in a patio tank.  But, one step at a time.  I have a tendency to get ahead of myself and not finish things right in front of me that I’ve started.  We won’t talk about all the quilts in different stages of completion and the fabric and patterns yet to be used.    But growing our own vegetables and maybe raising a small amount of fish; being able to cook without electricity, I think, are skills that may be necessary in the future.  Here are a few links for DYI solar ovens. 

www.solarcooking.org/plans

www.thesietch.org/projects/solaroven/index.htm

www.re-energy.ca/pdf/solaroven.pdf

Keep it simple.

Turtle Barn Farm

My husband and I went to visit Turtle Barn Farm yesterday.  Its a CSA garden or a “you-pick-it” garden, as the owner calls it.  Sue and Tom were more than generous.  They gave up almost 2 hours of a busy Saturday to give us a tour.  Later, over a cup of tea, they shared some great tips on how to build raised beds, what to use for the layers – what worked for them and what didn’t.  Tips on when to plant what and where, etc.  The area they have planted in back of their house is about the size of my backyard – really encouraging to see how much they grow in such a small space.  Sue has started planting some edibles in a front rose bed. 

So, in a nutshell  here are a few new things I learned: Start my layers with cow manure – draws up the earthworms, water well.  Next layer is cardboard from a mattress or appliance store.  Better than newspaper at keeping bermuda grass from coming up, water well.  Next, is a layer of just common potting soil mixed with organic material like the stuff from my compost pile.  Cow manure is better than horse manure because it won’t have near as many seeds in it.  Cows have more stomachs and digest grasses and stuff better than horses so I won’t have as many weeds with cow manure.  See what I mean?  Such valuable information.  Great stuff. 

She recommended a variety of strawberries – Ozark everbearing – that she’s had the best luck with through trial and error.  Its not a good idea to mix varieties, according to Sue, because it creates cross pollination and wierdness in general.  June bearing varieties harvest all at once and you can get overloaded with strawberries, whereas the everbearing varieties produce all season. 

Dill is best seeded directly in the soil and often reseeds itself from one season to the next.

I need to get my tomatoes started now.

I can grow lettuce during the summer along my fence row on the south where it will get shade.

Wait until May or June to plant my sweet potatoes.  They do well in containers.  No need to use valuable ground space for the spreading vines. 

Here are a few pictures Enjoy.  The last one is my own compost pile that I covered with black plastic today to cook for about the next six weeks until time to plant.  My husband helped me turn it and hopefully the raw stuff will compost down by the end of March.

a tipi for climbing peas - great idea

a tipi for climbing peas - great idea

Carrots in containers - will soon be removed to plant potatoes

Carrots in containers - will soon be removed to plant potatoes

img_0956

Strawberries, I think.  Hard to tell, should have taken it up close.

Swiss chard

Cooking Compost

Cooking Compost

Ready for the next step!  Buy the lumber for the beds and the manure and soil.  Think it will be expensive this first year, but not so much from now on with seasonal amendments.    Later, gator.

Keep it simple.

Oh, almost forgot.  I added 2 new pages to the blog.  5 Things, where I will periodically list a few things that I love or hate or whatever just for fun, and Pantry where I  have started a list of the foods I am stockpiling for when the economy totally tanks and things aren’t so easy to come by on a daily basis.  I am learning how quickly things expire – that is except for canned ham.  Not until 2020!   We will be eating lots of ham after the apocalypse! 🙂

Catching Up

Just a note to say hello.  I haven’t posted anything in a while due to….I don’t know, nothing particularly  interesting happening, the aggravation of an old back injury, an absolutely miserable visit to the dentist that has left me feeling bruised and battered and the fact that, I guess, for now, things are sort of in limbo.  I need to get busy building boxes for the two raised garden beds I am planning for the spring, but right now, the thought of lifting lumber and getting it done sounds downright painful.  Let’s just say, I won’t be doing THAT yoga video for a while.  I overstretched and wowser!  am I paying the price.  I’m  really disappointed, too.  I was determined to get my “yoga body” back from the good  old days, but I think I waited too long. 

So, instead of doing anything to get more physically fit, I’ve been reading books on beekeeping.  I  found a local beekeeping association that offers a series of “bee-ginning” classes January through April every year.  I missed the window this year, but its probably not good timing anyway.  I  need to get the garden established and then  maybe set up a couple of hives for the next season.  I tend to get in a hurry and want to do it all,  NOW.    The books are interesting reading, though.  

I sat down with the list of veges I want to grow this year and put together a planting calendar from the online Old Farmers Almanac.  Only $4.95 and they gear the planting info to my locality.  Anyway, no need to start planting until the end of March or so.  I have ordered a list of seeds from Freedom Seeds through Path to Freedom.  I’ve mentioned them in an earlier post, but if you haven’t been to their website, it is really worth a visit. 

Speaking of websites/blogs, today I discovered Women Not Dabbling in Normal.  I’ve only read a couple of posts, but it looks great.  I added them to my blogroll, so click on it and see what you think.  They cover a wide range of topics and even take questions from readers.

The bread class got rescheduled due to tornados.  Man!  Tuesday was really hairy around here weather-wise.  We were sent down to the basement here at work twice.  All the museum visitors, staff and everybody was down there.   Lots of damage, but we were spared yet again.  Thank you, Lord!   So, still looking forward to the bread class.  Then in March comes 2 quilt class  Saturdays and the Oklahoma Sustainability Network annual conference.  I’ll be planting about the same time.  Should be interesting.  Ooh!  Almost forgot – another cooking class at Kam’s Kookery in March, too!  Woohoo!   The dog-treat-free life is wonderful! 

This Saturday I’m going to visit a local CSA.  Need to buy eggs from the new local source I found and go buy some lettuce at the Farmers Market.  Its kind of a long drive down in the city but it is the best lettuce I have ever eaten.  Such a HUGE difference from the stuff you buy in the grocery store.   I’ll have to grow my own next year. 

Okay, guess that’s it for now.  Take a look at Path to Freedom and Women Not Dabbling in Normal and let me know what you think. 

Keep it simple.