Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Outfox Farm on TV

We joined another online farmer's market called Farm2Work and here comes the media.  Local news Channel 11 did an article yesterday in our front yard garden with me and the market founder Diane Rose.  Even our rabbits got in on the act.

Click this link to see the article and video:

Farm2Work connects farms to Arkansas workers 

We wanted to get across how wonderful local agriculture was and how its is great that customers could know their farmers and where their food comes from.  The internet allows urban homesteaders like us to participate with the public in the local food revolution.  Hold the phone, now Channel 4 is calling...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Save a seed company.

"Please visit Landreth Seed Co and LIKE it! Then go to their website and order a catalogue. It takes only $5 to save this heirloom seed company from going under. We need to save our seeds! Thanks :-)," says the cry of gardeners who want to save our seed heritage.
You'll want to get a copy of this great heirloom seed catalog anyway.
Company website where you can buy a catalogue.

Article on the movement to save the company.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How to get local produce from local farmers

We try to buy local, because we like to buy directly from the farmer.  We can ask questions.  We can determine for ourselves what food is good and good for us.  We can avoid the labeling and mislabeling, the processing, the petroleum and the petrochemical industries.


When we can't stay on our own side of the gate...
Saturday mornings seem to be the best time for farmers and consumers to get together.  That routine necessitates a certain regularity and consternation of purpose. Here is my morning in a nutshell.

I get up at 6am to water my garden.  My front yard is the most local of all.  I try to stay on my urban homestead whenever possible.  That means I exercise my hobby by keeping autumn seeds moist for germination, looking for bugs to pull off the plants and generally being the farmer.  This is a busy morning, so I keep my ablutions short.  I nibble on a few leaves and pull some weeds which go back to the pregnant doe in the rabbit warren.  I am off to work at my construction sites.  I have clients to meet for Saturday morning coffee and review.  I meet a carpenter at 7am and another at 8am.  Back again for breakfast with the family.  I pack the bags and the ice chest.  Then the fun begins.

I load up Izzy in the car seat and we head out to find some farmers.  First, I go the ASN market pickup downtown in Little Rock.  They only have local produce from local farms that provide all their growing philosophies and are visited by market organizers and consumers alike.  We did our ordering online earlier in the week at their market website.  My wife had ordered cantaloupe and herbs.  We have the hardest time getting a variety of fresh fruit in Arkansas.  At the market, our order awaits.  The helpful volunteers help you find your orders that the farmers have prepared for us.  On another table I see the bags of produce from my garden that I had dropped off yesterday for other people who had sent me their requests.  This is the best system for a farmer's market that exists.  The people order online to get exactly what they want instead of a random box or basket.  The farmers only have to harvest and deliver exactly what was ordered.  Money is exchanged at the drop location and everyone is happy.  If not, then the volunteers are there to help, and there are plenty of the farmers there volunteering to answer your questions directly.  Everyone has a smile on their face.

Next, I head over the river to North Little Rock to the Argenta Farmers' Market.  I am there to meet my main CSA farmer at her booth, Falling Sky Farm.  In addition to providing us with chicken, pork and beef for the year, she provides us all our eggs, pastured and organic, every two weeks.  It seems we are her largest consumer of eggs besides a bakery who gets slightly more eggs the other Saturday every two weeks.  That's a frightening amount of eggs, but the lovely does a lot of cooking and grain-free baking which require a lot of eggs.

I was so happy to pick up the eggs at the market today instead of her husband delivering them to the house, because I saw my favorite bee keeper, K Bee Honey.  He has been running low on inventory recently.  On his booth table he had, amongst other smaller bottles, a GALLON of honey!   A lot of people were joking about the size, but I snatched it up.  Finally I said.  Honey is the only sugar that we use, so we go through it fast.  It is best to get local honey to help with your allergies of local flowers.

Loaded up at the public market, I went to a drop off location for a local farmer to get produce directly.  I've been to this farmer's place and looked at his land.  I found this farmer from a remote area of Arkansas, through socializing in a food buying club.  We do various clubs and loose groups such as the customers of Azure Standard, who send a truck to our state every month and has a traditional catalog approach to ordering bulk food.  The food in that group is not local, but sometimes certain food is just not available local, but local people can get together to share the shipping costs. We buy feed bag size portions of organic grains this way for our rabbits.  Other products include truly raw nuts, coconuts and pure olive oil. On the way back home, I pass through Hillcrest's newest farmers market, doing well and staying busy.  I see some of the same vendors at both markets, like Kelly's North Pulaski Farm, an organic greenhoused farm.  So many good farmers, so little time.  I will see Kelly later, or read about his farm on his blog or FB group.  The Internet does make staying in touch with your food a lot easier.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Conejo for my Birthday dinner.

My wife is very special.  She made me my favorite dish for my birthday yesterday and I want to share it with you. The dish has its origins in the mountain areas of Mexico where I first experienced real Mexican food devoid of all that CalMex and Tex Mex spin.  This cuisine deals with the flavors that are found on the land, cactus, peppers, banana, wild game.  It is very sustainable.  It is very real.  My favorite of that cuisine is Conejo in Guajillo sauce.  Chef Hugo in Houston had perfected the recipe and his dish has been my favorite for years at his restaurant on Westheimer Road in Houston..  My wife found his recipe online and has made her own modifications to celebrate my birthday.  Chef Hugo's Mixiote de Conejo Recipe.  Yeah!
Conejo in guajillo pepper sauce with nopales cactus wrapped in banana leaves, black beans, jicama salad
 She did have to ask me to go shopping while I was on a business trip to Houston.  That let the cat out of the bag.  There is not much available in Little Rock, so needed me to bring back essential supplies.  She asked me to pick some cactus, jicama, banana leaves, guajillo peppers, ancho peppers, dried avocado leaves... The list pretty much gave the surprise away.  The Hispanic girls in Fiesta Grocery were tickled that this white boy was trying to shop for all this.  They all suspected that I was about to embark on tamale making and each gave me their favorite recipe.  Still, none of them knew where or why to find dried avocado leaves.  The closest substitute was bay leaves and ground star anise.

I already knew I needed to harvest some of our rabbits when I got back into town.  This meal also marks the first meal from meat that we have raised on our homestead.  That is the primary reason for calling the meat by its Spanish name, so as to distance it from the animals that we tend.  Our original intent on raising rabbits was to produce manure for the garden and to supplement the dogs' diet.  Our Aussies, however, are great culinary snobs apparently.  They do not like the meat that we produce on our own homestead.  We switched out the common feed we were buying from the farmers' association and started buying various organic grains and seeds and mineral blocks.  Our new custom blend of rabbit food now looks positively delicious.  We subscribe to the adage, "You are what you eat eats."  Now that the rabbits are finished on this blend of feed and the fresh greens of the summer garden, we are comfortable trying the meat ourselves.  Let the dogs eat... whatever they eat.
Prepared conejo, paddles of cactus, and sauce combined in a banana leaf wrap to steam in the oven

She prepared the meat, paddles of cactus, and sauce all separately and then combined them in a banana leaf wrap to steam in the oven.  The banana leaves did not fare well on the trip from the market but we managed to pull off the steaming.  I had to help in that I had to take care of the 2 year old munchkin while mommy cooked.  I took that to mean that I would direct the munchkin to hold the cook's cord while daddy tied the square knots on the banana leaf bundles of joy.

Daddy needed some additional help to do this.  He had picked up some Mexican beer and made his own Michalada as a summer time beer cocktail.  Directions are easy.  In a tumbler, add 1 tablespoon sea salt, 2 tablespoons line juice, 1 tablespoon chili powder, dash of black pepper, 4 large dashes of hot sauce, dash of coconut aminos (we don't have soy sauce in the house), ice and one Mexican beer.  It has to be Mexican, or the flavors won't understand each other and there will be quarreling.  This is for relaxation I tell you!! and for reminding me of good times with friends who taught me the drink back in San Luis Potesi.
Banana leaf bundles and Michalada
Afterwards, she complied with my selection of birthday cake ... well er, begrudgingly acquiesced to my request of flan.  A traditionalist, she wanted something to put candles in.  I still wanted flan.  It went with the dinner, and the two number candles stayed in the flan long enough for me to make my wish and blow them out and over.
Real flan made with honey, fresh whole milk, and pastured eggs.
She made my birthday the best!  Thank you!  I love you Christi.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Preserve those tomatoes! and herbs and peppers...

Horse radish marinated and roasted bell peppers.
Dried herbs.  The open jar and flower is Lemon Bergamot.
I have a dozen Pompeii Roma plants 10 feet tall and several each of Chadwick Cherry, Yellow Pear and Cherokee Purple.  Although the later is great for slicing, and the cherries and pears are addicting as pop n snacks, the Romas are for canning.  They made thick walls, little seeds and they are easy to peel.  We have tried to save a little of our crop this year with various preparations and preservations.
From top left: tomato soup, three jars of hot salsa, two quarts of sundried tomatoes, three half pints of sun dried yellow tomatoes, lacto-fermented ketchup, paste, freezer bags of dried romas.

A day's pick.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Never throw away a celery base again!

Celery bases recycled.
Somewhere along the line, I read that you can create celery starts from the base of your grocery store bought celery stalks.  What a wonderful idea!  I had bought two organic celery bunches.  The base ends have a bit too much root and fiber for my cooking, so I usually cut them off and compost them. 

I had already started cutting off green onion bases and planting them directly into the ground of my garden.  These onion roots easily restart.  Now, I have a little section of my garden amongst my herbs of green onions that I can harvest anytime and still have onions growing at the same time.  Maybe this bed will start off shooting and I will end up with even more.  All from nothing but an idea that one should look for any way in the garden to keep its resources at the highest use possible.  Taking a vegetable from the garden and eating it is the highest use I can think of.  Throwing the scraps or cuttings in the compost isn't so bad.  At least that plant matter will rot and nourish the garden some enough to grow more veggies for me to eat.  But wait, let's not throw that onion root into the compost when I can replant it and get vegetables to eat directly.  That's keeping the onion resource at its highest productivity.  This is a core permaculture concept.  Maximize your garden.  Minimize your work.  Don't waste energy moving resources.  Relax.  Have a home brew.

So, when I heard I could do the same with celery root cuttings, I was thrilled.  Instead of tossing the celery base into the compost bin, walking it back to the compost, and waiting 6 months for it to downgrade into organic matter for me to wheelbarrow back to the garden and then grow other plants, I took the easier path.  I put the celery bases in a bowl of water on top of my refrigerator.  Two steps to the cupboard for the bowl, a stop at the sink for water and three steps to the refrigerator.  One motion to lift the bowl with the cradled celery roots to the top of the refrigerator, and one equal and opposite motion to remove a bottle of home brew from the refrigerator.

I did check on the bowl every now and then to make sure it had enough water and that the cat didn't play with it.  Along side the celery bowl, I had calendula flowers drying and an the ever disappearing camomile flowers drying for tea.  I don't drink home brew exclusively!

Before long, the center of the celery base will grow a new stalk.  After about a week, tiny white roots will appear outside the base.  It's time to move it out to the garden.  Nobody told me to harden off this plant.  Its not like it's a seedling.  It really is the old celery root that has been brutally chopped off to make my dinner.  I pop the base into a hole of heavily laden organic soil, cover and then I water.  I hope to have two celery plants with minimal effort.

Why does this surprise me so?  I have started potatoes from eye cuttings and even started avocado seeds with toothpicks suspending the seed in water.  Maybe it is because there is no seed involved.  It was trash.  I had made the jump in seeing the trash as recyclable organic matter for my compost, but I had not seen the potential of it as a new plant ready for the garden. Some one had to tell me.  I would love to remember the blog or comment that told me.  I would credit them, I would.  I should have been looking for such opportunities.  I should be a better gardener, a better urban homesteader, a better permaculurist.  But at least the idea sunk in.  Note to self: drink less beer.  A little less.

My new celery plants look great in the garden.  Either the bugs or I will be very happy with them.  I am already happy to have tried a new idea.