February 26, 2011

This Week's Favorite Articles, Blogs, etc.

Some things I've been reading, looking at, and thinking about this week:

Seeds Straight From Your Fridge by Michael Tortorello in the NY Times - growing food plants from all the seeds, rhizomes, and roots we have in our kitchens.

Being Practical Isn't All That Great on The Organic Sister - A reminder to make impractical decisions every so often. 

Mine! on Cudzoo Farm - Another great goat picture by one of my small farming role models. Seriously, I've seen her farm in person and it is brilliant. I use it all the time as an example when I'm talking to people about what a well designed micro farm looks like. Sarah is my hero.

How To Render Lard The Right Way (Snow White, Odorless) by A Little Bit of Spain In Iowa - A very good explanation of how to render lard. And now I understand why my last batch was porkier than the first.

February 24, 2011

Mark Bittman on McDonald's Oatmeal

Along the lines we discussed the other day - that none of us really need or will benefit from "healthy" convenience foods - Mark Bittman in the NY Times calls McDonalds out on their newest "healthy" choice: oatmeal.

'A more accurate description than “100% natural whole-grain oats,” “plump raisins,” “sweet cranberries” and “crisp fresh apples” would be “oats, sugar, sweetened dried fruit, cream and 11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen.”'

"How To Make Oatmeal... Wrong" by Mark Bittman, New York Times Opinionator Blog, February 22, 2011, 8:30 PM

February 21, 2011

Rhizobia and Root Nodules

You know how people say that legumes "fix" nitrogen in the soil? Well here is how they do it:

Root nodules on vetch from my garden.

Rhizobia are a type of soil bacterium which infect and form a symbiotic relationship with legumes. Together they create little root nodules where they "fix" the nitrogen (N)... that is to say they take atmospheric N (straight out of the air) and turn it into a form usable by the plant. For this service the plant trades carbohydrates.  

I'm A (sub) Urban Homesteader

Today, Monday, has been declared action day by the newly formed Facebook group "Take Back Urban Home-steading(s)".

For an quick intro into what's going on I recommend Crunchy Chicken's post from last week, which was the first place I read about this controversy.

My first reaction was to look a little deeper and make sure all this was real (although I do trust Crunchy Chicken) because haven't we all read something online which, when we looked into it, turned out to be kind of different from reality. After all, the internet often operates as one giant game of telephone, with reality being massaged and misinterpreted with every iteration. So I read all the Dervaes' blog posts on this subject because, as they said in their Feb 17th blog post Who Owns These Trademarks?: "Know the facts before you react!"... And I agree with that statement. 

February 16, 2011

Escaped Chickens

Those birdies are perched on the front gate between the area near our house where I have them temporarily and the front yard (note the protective dog in the back ground. Good girl Lily!).

Because their new house doesn't have wheels on it yet, I haven't moved them to the back half of the property where they'll rotate to new pasture every few days (note #2 - my very stupid dog has gotten immovably tangled in the pasture fence twice this month - the second time because she really wanted a piece of raw sweet potato I gave the birds).

February 15, 2011

Notes From the Kitchen and Garden

What I'm cooking...

  • Corned Beef no. 2 = in the pot for the next 5 days.
  • Homesick Texan's Sweet Potato Pie
  • Vegetable soup
  • Ginger cookies
  • Scrambled eggs! The babies haven't started laying yet but the retired girls... they're back in business! I think this is a temporary increase in lay (they've rested all winter) but since the days have been longer we've been getting 5-7 eggs most days, even when it doesn't get above freezing.
  • Beans

Tomato Seedlings

February 13, 2011

Chicken Salad

Yummy spring grass with fresh seed heads.

How to Cook Beans

I stated in a previous post that we need to take responsibility for ourselves and learn to cook. I also said that many nourishing, real foods don't take very long to prepare. Those foods are also cheaper. So, I decided I should put my money where my mouth is and give some examples.

Long soaked black beans.
Let's first take beans. I cook dried beans and we eat them all the time. I do freeze them but, even if I didn't, I could still cook them every day in only a few minutes. Here's how:

February 7, 2011

Wal-Mart and "Healthy" Food

I'm sure you've all heard about Wal-Mart's 5 year plan to cut salt, fats, and sugar in thousands of its packaged foods. The plan calls for a reduction of sodium by 25%, sugar by 10%, and the elimination of trans fats. They also plan to "...develop criteria, and ultimately a seal, that will go on truly healthier foods, as measured by their sodium, fat and sugar content (emphasis mine)."

I have a very hard time trying to figure out how to react to this. On the one hand, obviously, if people are eating these things then eating a slightly better version is good, right? But, if all we ever do is come up with ways to make terrible things slightly better while leaving them still terrible we are never going to make the radical change we need for real improvements in health and longevity.

Also, how did we come to a place where "healthy" is defined by how little fat, sugar, and salt something has in it? By this measure, Styrofoam, plastic forks, and drywall screws are good options for lunch because there's no demon salt, fat, or sugar! It's a ridiculous metric and it shows how confused we've become about what food is and what makes it "good" food. 

February 6, 2011

Seed Storage

For years I have been trying to come up with a method of seed storage that I like. I've tried bags, jars, boxes, seed starting trays stuffed with packets, and more but nothing worked for me. I have a whole lot of seeds so this has been a big pain.

Then a few weeks ago I read a post on seed storage by one of my favorite bloggers, Chiot's Run.

She solved my problem. I'm clearly an idiot for not thinking of this myself :-)

February 4, 2011

Corned Beef and Curing Bacon

Last week I finished curing bacon and corning beef. It's a simple process that takes very little work. I used the recipes in this New York Times article by Michael Ruhlman (author of Ratio... which I recommend). 

This is the second time I've cured bacon and mark my words... when a recipe calls for a volumetric measure of kosher salt do not use table salt. Because the crystals are smaller there is much more table salt in a given volume than kosher salt. Be forewarned and avoid making your bacon inedibley salty as I did the first time.