Thursday, February 26, 2009

Off the Grid - Almost

Posting from a Star Bucks in Brenham......

Wow, what fun. I drove what seemed like forever down a partially gravel road, after nearly 4 hours on the highway – kicking up the dust behind me in this old Ford 150, I felt like a scene in a country western music video. Finally, the road I was looking for showed up and I turned down another gravel road, this one a bit narrower, until I arrived at Acres Alegras, the home of Carol Montgomery and a menagerie of critters.

Several orange tabbies greeted me at the gate of her home, which was latched and I held my breath as I entered hoping a huge dog wasn’t waiting in lay around the corner…nope – Peanut was the only one that seemed ferocious – in her dreams I suppose, and only as big as one of my roosters, I don’t think much harm was going to come from her – a Chihuahua. Her buddy, much larger but with a tail wagging a hundred miles an hour didn’t seem too interested in eating anything but maybe a snack of salt licked from my hand. (I'll snap a few photos tomorrow, it was too dark tonight and at dawn when I saw them from my loft.)

I rang the bell to the really neat house and was greeted by Carol, a spry woman I’d guess in her late 60’s – haven’t asked yet – who seemed surprised I was here already. I had tried to call but it didn’t go through so she didn’t know I was so close, much less arrived. Nonetheless, she was delighted I was here and she showed me into her warm, welcoming home. Beautiful stone floor throughout, cedar beams above with warm, rich wood rafters. I saw a pool table on the loft and I think a ping pong table, too – what a cool place!

We went out the back door to the barn loft where I would be staying and I carried my bag upstairs. The hall light flickered on and off for a few moments before agreeing to stay lit and we climbed up the stairs to the cool loft apartment where Carol tells me, she lived for a while before her house was built.

Now, back about 20 years ago, before I’d accumulated so much “stuff”, I could see myself having lived here and loved it! One big room, claw foot tub, old cook stove – what more could you need! Oh the view is beautiful, too, and quiet – almost deafening as well as a bright show of stars at night. I wish my place was a bit darker so you could see such a show.

Carol heated up some supper back in her kitchen made from this week’s Home Sweet Farm’s CSA distribution of yellow and orange/red carrots with yellow centers, mashed potatoes and a wonderful mixed salad with purple cauliflower and an assortment of other winter goodies, and we chatted about farming and some of the city folk’s expectations of a farm diet a bit over supper. Although greens are the main staple right now, soon, she said he’ll be planting some 40 different varieties of tomatoes – wow! I’d better get busy I thought! Although our growing season starts a few weeks behind Brad’s as he’s about 200 miles south of Balch Springs. That is part of what this workshop is about, the planning of varieties and so I wanted to wait to get some recommendations before I started all of that anyway.

After supper we visited the bed and breakfast down the path a bit, where one of the presenters at the workshop I am attending will be staying, to tend to a low water pressure issue in the house. Carol’s plumber thought it may be a build up of grit in the faucet so we took that apart, to no avail. So, the plumber will have to come out before her guests hope to shower tomorrow. But it was a cute little house with wonderfully restored wood floors, old kitchen hutches, antique stove/oven and again, a view of the sky no loft in downtown Dallas could compete with – certainly not for the thousands of dollars in rent they get per month!

We had tinkered around for a good little bit while our bread pudding was cooking at the house and I went in to eat mine while she called the plumber. Don’t wait on her she said. Well, after a long drive and all, I was ready to head up to my pad so I ate a bite of desert as I admired the house knowing I’d have to take pictures before I left. The old stoves just blew me away! Where did she find them!? Carol helped me map out my drive to the fire house classroom for my morning class and we said good night.

Well, I got up here and picked out a bed to claim, not that I’d have any competition and I suppose I could change my mind and pick a different one each night, but I had to settle on one for the evening anyway. I pulled out all of my stuff and, you got it, enjoyed that claw foot tub! Now, I’d probably have drained the hot water heater trying to fill it, but nonetheless, it was a nice bath – I felt nostalgic taking a bath in it.

And, as the wind howled, I made up the bed and set my alarm – only to realize, the wind was not going to let me sleep. So, I pulled myself out this trusty old laptop and fired up my “player” to lull me off to sleep.

Sleep is not coming easy for some reason as I’ve awoken several times tonight and it is nearly 4 as I type all of this from my first day. But, I’m sure after a morning of classroom and an afternoon of hands-on learning, I’ll sleep like a baby tonight….

More later….and if I can find an internet connection, I may even get this posted before I get home.

I finally fell asleep, just in time to wake up of course, but cooked on the old gas stove (see pic) and had fresh range eggs and some pan toast - yummmy!
Breakfast - now THIS is real butter ya'll! The fridge was stocked for me.

Went to Brad's farm, poor folks down here are in a drought, too, and his crops are suffering. His CSA is 3 weeks behind. We're all praying for rain it seems. Even his cover crops were suffering...these should be 3 ft tall!

Please pray for rain ya'll. We're doing ok, but stuff is growing slow with the irrigation, but nothing beats real rainfall.

I'll take more pics tomorrow - missed the draft horse demo for another workshop - oh well. I'll catch it another time. Lots of great folks down here learning lots of great stuff. See you all soon.

I'm heading back to the ranch where there is not much in the way of internet or cell use. About 3 bars on the cell phone and no wifi that is for sure....

Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mmmmm Bacon.....Homer, You Better Be Careful What You Wish For!

Well gang, it is happening right before our very eyes - well, actually behind our backs since they won't force labeling of GMO foods. More and more the "know your farmer" philosophy is ringing truer and truer.

The Toronto Star Story; The future face of food? Genetically Engineered Meal Close to Your Table.

Click on the title above and read the story about how they are now mixing genes between pigs and mice - so the pig poop is more environmentally friendly. No, sadly, I'm not kidding.
How'd you like to eat your breakfast sausage or a nice juicy pork chop knowing it was mixed with mouse genes? (Now, a lot of us are not pork consumers anyway, but if they are starting with pork - who knows where they will go next...oh, I'm sure our friendly cow won't be far down the road.) Here is a previous article explaining cloning and how the FDA gave such practice the seal of approval for our food supply.

And what is maybe more scary, is that there are so many other articles on that web site about even more nonsense that is going on with our food and just basic monkeying around with nature. There is going to be a backlash at some point - I just hope it only happens in a lab somewhere and not in our homes, on our organic farms and grocery stores.

Keep telling your loved ones to try hard as they can to eat from local, sustainable and ethical farms. JuHa, where those bonus items came from last week, is one example of a great, local ranch we can feel confident in getting pork that is pure pork.

On another note, the seed potatoes (non GMO and organically grown seed potatoes) should be in this week. Our work share members, volunteers and I will be cutting and dusting taters this weekend and soon will get them planted in the ground. Freeze is predicted for Saturday night - cover any tenderlings. We'll toss a frost cloth over the lettuces just so they stay pretty. Weren't they good last week?! That was a sneak peak of winter. They were just screaming "Pick me! Pick me!" - so we did!

Wendy from Akin farms has green onions, kale and spinach on a "pick your own" basis if you're Jonseing for some farm fresh goodies between seasons. In fact, it is from her newsletter that I first heard of this pig/mouse story.

Ya'll have a great weekend.

Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Chicken In Every Pot On Sunday

This winter, the folks at JuHa Ranch have been culling their flock of hens. Some of their hens are no longer laying eggs, and some of them have turned to eating other hen's eggs. So, what happens to old hens? Well, they aren't much for roasting.

The chicken you buy at the store is usually young. Most chicken farms sell their birds as soon as they reach adult weight. Older chickens get tough, but they can be delicious and tender if cooked in liquid. That's why they're called stewing hens.

There are lots of ways of getting the full flavor of a stewing hen, but they all require a bit of time. It takes years for a bird to toughen up, so it can take hours to tenderize them. The payoff, however, is big. Older chickens have more flavor per ounce than younger ones, and that's all there is to it.Leave it to the French to come up with some of the great stewing hen recipes. After all, it was King Henry IV who said he wanted no peasant in his land too poor to have a chicken in his pot (poule au pot) every Sunday.

6 pounds of whole, uncooked stewing chicken (two small or one large)
2 medium onions, quartered
2 large stalks celery with leaves, or half a bulb celeriac (or substitute celery seeds)
2 large carrots, or 4 small ones, or a handful of carrot seedlings
2 bay leaves1 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 long, leafy sprigs fresh thyme
10 peppercorns (or more)
1 teaspoon soy sauce (optional)

If frozen, thaw your hen in its package in the refrigerator the day before. Or quick thaw in lukewarm water for an hour and use right away.

Rinse hens inside and out with water.

Place in a large stockpot with enough cold water to cover (it's OK if leg tips aren't completely submerged). Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 1 to 2 hours or until breast meat loosens from the bone.

Skim foam from surface a few times.

When meat is loose, lift chicken out of pot and let rest until cool enough to handle.

Remove meat from bones, and refrigerate for later use.

Return bones and skin to pot. Add remaining ingredients and return to simmer for a total cooking time of 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

Judi recommends tasting the broth in the last hour to monitor its progress. There is a big difference in the blended flavors and richness of stock that has had full simmer and that which is cut short. When you're satisfied, strain into a wide bowl so that it will cool quickly.

Refrigerate or freeze in 1-quart containers if not using immediately. I have found the yield to be a quart of stock for every pound of bird. This liquid gold can get locavores through the winter "localizing" dried legumes that many soups are built around and of course inviting stews, dumplings and hearty pasta casseroles. I find adding the de-boned meat at the last possible second to be best for flavor.

Share your recipes with us, too, by posting a comment!

Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Stop Messing with our Food!

Folks, I am a pretty outspoken person as many of you have probably come to know. But I usually try to keep out of politics and have decided to try to keep my efforts focused on my corner of this big, beautiful planet - figuring I'll be more effective that way.

However, I do pull my head up out of the sand often and watch what is going on in Washington DC through means of notices that flood my email box.

I'm not suggesting you take my viewpoint or subscribe or even reply to all of the petitions that come your way. But please, we do need to keep our voices heard and there are some good organizations that make it easy enough to do so - when you agree about the cause.

The link for this latest is another round of poorly tested corn crops about to be released to the market. These have the potential to contaminate other crops and all of the crazy lack of testing for what long term effects GMO corn may have on us - the largest science project known.

"This GE corn variety was developed by DuPont subsidiary Pioneer Hi-Bred International to tolerate applications of glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) and acetolactate synthase-inhibiting herbicides (ALS inhibitors). This latest petition to deregulate a new, untested, and complex GE crop poses food safety, environmental, and agronomic concerns that were not adequately evaluated...."

We can't realistically eat organic every day all day all the time. And corn is found in just about everything it seems, as well as is fed to the animals we consume if we consume meats.

Please follow the link above to read more and potentially add your voice to the others. And if you have time, take a look at some of the other news going on.

Thank you all for supporting local agriculture!

Thank you.

Eat Your Food - Naturally!