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The only news I tend to keep track of...
...is news related to Monsanto vs. any organic or small farmers. Wild Garden Seed out of Philomath, Oregon has a crew of revolutionaries working mostly under the direction of Frank Morton. Their ideals and standards usually tend to echo my own set of life rules. Whenever there is a new post on their blog The Chaff Pile (which I also love the name of), I get excited (and sometimes a little nervous) to hear updates about fighting the good fight. But I always leave knowing more about where things stand and having a relatively good understanding of what's going on. Please take a few minutes to catch up:

Organic Farmers V. Monsanto: Things you should know

I am so very grateful to this particular crew of folks for the hard work they do, not only of growing open-pollinated and strong seeds in the Willamette Valley, but also of speaking on behalf of farmers everywhere who realize very truly that there is no way for Monsanto to co-exist with much of anyone, quite honestly. Even the use of that word "exist" feels like a slap in the face, considering that monocropping and fancy "hybrids" and genetically-engineered crops are the reason we have ridiculously fewer varieties of vegetables and fruits available to us today; the very reason we have lost so many of our Heirlooms. It simply cannot stand.
commercial interruption
hi there. it's me, tel. I would like to draw your attention to the special on bee hives we've got right now. swarm season is rapidly approaching, so buy a hive.

that is all. proceed.
Potting block party
Evidently the concept of Potting Blocks has been around for quite some time -- at least according to this site, where I purchased my 2" (by four) Blocker. Supposedly the concept originated in Mexico over 2000 years ago. What I know for sure, though, is that using this concept makes a lot of sense. I first learned about Potting Blocks (also referred to as Soil Blocks) while working at April Joy Farm in Ridgefield. And I believe April learned about them from Eliot Coleman's book The New Organic Grower; A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.

Potting Block or Soil Block Makers come in a variety of sizes and as far as I know are manufactured solely by a company in England called Ladbrooke. I've only done a quick search to look for this company online but can't seem to find anything. I suppose it's only a matter of time before someone here in the States starts manufacturing something similar. Using a Soil Blocker pretty much eliminates the need for almost all of the plastic pots that folks typically use when starting seeds. If you built your own seedling trays out of wood you could eliminate the plastic from your process entirely. And that would be very cool.

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In his book, Coleman also espouses the idea of "Multi-Plant Blocks" -- growing certain vegetables in groups (ranging from 3 - 12) in order to make better use of space, time and energy. This was also a concept that I learned while working with April and it seems to produce great results. Beets, broccoli, cabbage, corn, cucumber, leek, melon, bulb and scallion onion, peas, spinach and turnip are all vegetables that Coleman suggests growing in multi-plant blocks. Scallions are kind of my favorite out of this bunch -- at least as far as growing them in this fashion is concerned -- because you seed 12 scallions per block and they grow and support one another. When you're weeding you don't end up dealing with as many weeds because there's no room for weeds to grow within the bunch of twelve. And when it comes time to harvest them you're doing much less work in pulling an entire dozen out of the ground at the same time as well as doing less work where cleaning and packing is concerned. You can simply sell a 12-scallion bunch (or give it away or use it in your own kitchen). The point is, there is less work involved at several different stages of the growing. It's brilliant and I like it. :-) I've also seen it in action and it works quite well.

I'm surprised I haven't started seeing Potting Block Makers for sale in retail nurseries yet. Hopefully it's something that will continue to catch on and lessen the amount of plastic/petroleum usage involved in farming. I've ordered from pottingblocks.com as well as from johnnyseeds.com . I haven't yet received my order from Johnny's but pottingblocks.com had easy ordering and quick service, even if their website does look a bit old-fashioned. They're a bit of an investment but they typically come with a one year warranty and from what I've heard and read they hold together for many years without need for replacement. If either of mine break down I'll be sure to let you know.

I'll likely be back to ramble on about Soil Blocking Mix and what sorts of ratios ought to be involved. I've been experimenting to see how I can make a more sustainable mixture that doesn't involve using peat moss. Hoorah!
A little like Snow White but without any pesky dwarves
I sit looking out the window toward the river and in my line of sight there are at least 2 dozen Chickadee(dee-dee)s, a Pileated Woodpecker with his bright red crest and haphazard sculpting of the alder, a Buff Orpington that just ran to hide under the Camellia bush (maybe a large bird flew overhead), an orphaned deer (whom I've named "Frankie" despite my best intentions to quit naming animals at or around the farm) grazing on any available tender blackberry leaves and a lovely river floating on by. For some reason it's kind of funny to see the somewhat domesticated farm animals like the chicken hanging around in what appears to be perfect harmony with Frankie the deer. I like it.
Egregious indeed
Farewell, 2011. I'd be lying if I said you weren't a giant asshole. But I'd also be lying if I said you didn't have a thing or two to teach me. It just would have been nice had all the lessons not been quite so painful. But hey! Moving on...

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Reverend Tel seems to be much busier and productive than I at Pikku these days (actually it's been that way for a while now). He's built all sorts of amazing structures, sprouts organic grain for the chooks and turkeys on a daily basis, most recently works tirelessly at fixing Grandpa Les's truck, builds window frames from scratch, colonizes various edible mushrooms, spreads mulch around the property, collects eggs, sells eggs, cuddles chickens, rides to town with his bicycle and trailer to pick up coffee grounds, paints chalkboards for me to fiddle about with, fires up the sauna regularly, adopts orphaned deer, eats boatloads of pasta and cookies (we're talking coracle-loads as opposed to waka-loads), takes naps like a champion and practices general awesomeness. I've probably missed a few things, but I would imagine you get the picture. (And just in case you have a faulty imagination, actual pictures are included).

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Maybe I'll start doing some awesome things again soon, too. Stay tuned.
bidness
hello, there.  I don't know your names, but you are looking very good today.

I'm interrupting Hillary's egregious lack of blogging for a moment (and changing fonts!) to announce that we've gone into business.  sure, we've got .org behind our domain name, but this mess doesn't pay for itself.  actually, I guess we're trying to make this mess pay for itself.  by selling some things.

first on the menu—and last, presently—is chicken eggs.  we're pleased to be newly certified by Animal Welfare Approved.  accepting SNAP, WIC, and SFMNP benefits is in the works.  our recent WSDA inspection also went swimmingly.  kudos to WSDA for hiring at least one exceptionally charming and helpful inspector.

animal lovers, not animal humpers. big difference.
the folks at AWA are pretty excellent, as far as I can tell.  there are plenty of other third-party certifications out there, but a lot of them are either silly or charge an awful lot of money for application and audits.  AWA's standards make a lot of sense, and ensure that animals have it pretty well.  the auditor that stopped by for a few hours was knowledgeable and friendly.  and they'll sell us egg cartons for cheap.  so we joined up.

I'm really excited about accepting SNAP, WIC, and SFMNP benefits.  a lot of vitriol gets thrown at folks who try to grow food in ecologically responsible ways because that food frequently ends up being expensive and/or sold at such obnoxious retailers as Whole Foods.  the foodie culture certainly deserves a lot of the criticism it receives.  keeping our prices low and accepting these benefits are two important steps toward making good food available to more folks, instead of just self-righteous yuppies.  social concerns don't have to suffer for ecology.

and if you aren't a self-righteous yuppie and are't yet offended, I've got more: current IWW members get a discount!  slightly less controversial: discount for bicycling, walking, or swimming to the farm.  not at all controversial: discount for bringing your own egg carton.

anyhow, we aren't exactly overrun with eggs just yet, but things are picking up.  adorable tiny chickens are rapidly growing up and will soon contribute more to the farm than exercise chasing them when they escape.  produce, food plants and seeds, and beehives for sale in the future.  for now, come buy some eggs.

adoption, or baby snatching.jpg


late edit:
turns out FMNP benefits can only be used for plant foods.  no eggs!  so those will have to wait until we're ready to sell some produce.  we're going ahead with the SNAP application, though.
Winter's a sweet little puppy this year
It's a little bit funny that my most recent post (all the way back in June) was about finding an elsewhere, because I've been housesitting since the beginning of October and for all intents and purposes living in Ridgefield. I head back to Pikku to check on Grandma Lucy every few days and try to call even more often to make sure she's doing alright. (As well as checking on chickens -- all of which I moved into the barn coop for the Winter and there have been a few eggs again for the first time in months(!), and making sure the river isn't too high and checking downspouts and checking for leaks in the basement and watering the Christmas tree and other plants that sometimes go unnoticed). But I've made this my own temporary space and I don't think I've felt this way about a dwelling place in a long time, even though it's not actually my own. It gives me room to think and to sleep in without feeling guilty. It's given me a space where I can keep a tidy living area, but also leave fragile or breakable things out in the open and when I come back to the house after being gone all day they aren't broken or missing. I am sure that many of the "worries" I sometimes have while I'm at Pikku are of my own cultivation, though they certainly did not spontaneously generate. I'm trying not to over-analyze (though we all know how well that usually works for me) the whole situation and instead just enjoy the freedom and room to breathe without feeling that I'm in someone's way or inconveniencing them. These are all things I knew I was signing up for when I made the choice to live with family instead of living on my own. And I am still so very grateful and fortunate that they are willing to put me up (and put up with me). I have a lot of those folks in my life -- family I've been blessed with from birth and family I've been blessed to actually choose...so I try to spread myself around in hopes that I will avoid any one or two people from growing weary of my company. As far as I know it's working. Hopefully someone will tell me if that changes.

"Living" in Ridgefield has also given me a much better attitude about Winter this year. Or perhaps it's cleared some other things away so that I'm more equipped to choose a better attitude. Choosing to focus on the positive things in my life, as much as I can or am able has definitely been getting easier and easier the more practice I get. Though those steps are so very tiny...I think I've been practicing for this a long time. I think I've also talked about it before, that I used to feel sort of guilty for being positive and thought perhaps it made others feel bad about themselves. But I have come to the conclusion that there is no reason for me to feel guilty about it, that's just silly. If anything, it will be encouraging and perhaps give someone a new perspective. Or, if it does happen to piss them off, maybe it will at least start a conversation that will accomplish something.

Even as I write this I am struggling to distract myself from thoughts that are counter-productive. All of this quiet and extra space has been brilliant and wonderful, but it also makes it difficult to deal with the more bothersome things I think about sometimes. Some days I have the energy to sit with those thoughts and get to a place where I either realize that I'm actually just spinning and then I make a choice to stop and move on to something else or I can actually resolve them somehow. Other days I don't bother sitting with those thoughts at all and just choose to turn the music up loud and dance around in the living room for a while. I have other things to distract me as well...today I've got a birthday card I'd like to work on and just made a batch of a new (to me) Vegan Pumpkin Bread recipe. I used half of the recipe to make a loaf of bread (which is currently in the oven) and the rest came out about perfect for 18 muffins.

I found the recipe here. I changed it up just a bit because I was mostly just trying to use up the rest of a pumpkin I baked the other day. I made a double batch of these cookies from PPK last weekend, too. And they turned out to be delicious, if a bit sticky. Seems like they freeze pretty well, too and the taste and texture are great right out of the freezer without having to thaw them.

Temporary segregation of wet and dry ingredients

Here are the changes I made to the Vegan Pumpkin Walnut Bread:
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (instead of all-purpose AND whole wheat)
  • 2 1/3 cups granulated sugar (instead of 2 cups brown sugar and 1/3 cup granulated)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (instead of 1 tsp freshly grated)
  • No allspice (didn't have any)
  • No cloves (didn't have any)
  • 2 cups pureed, baked Baby Pam pumpkin (instead of "just under" 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (instead of 1/3 cup water)
  • 1/3 cup liquid honey (instead of 1/3 cup maple syrup)
  • 1 cup sunflower oil (instead of "vegetable" oil)
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts (instead of 1 cup chopped walnuts)
  • Added 1/8 tsp cardamom to the dry ingredients (essentially a "pinch")
  • Added 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut to the dry ingredients
  • Added 2 TBSP ground flaxseed to the dry ingredients just for shits and giggles
  • Added 1 tsp vanilla extract to liquid ingredients because I LOVE the stuff and it seems to make most baked goods taste better
  • Greased the loaf pan with coconut oil (instead of greasing and flouring) ***so greasing AND FLOURING is probably a better way to go...just sayin'
  • Half-way through baking the loaf of bread I covered the top with a piece of loose foil. Don't take the whole thing out and seal the edges. Just set it on top...if you seal the edges it might not bake properly. The foil just keeps it from getting too brown on top. The bread's not out of the oven yet but when there are about 10 minutes left I'll probably take the foil off.
  • I'm not sure yet how the muffins will turn out but I'm pretty sure they won't need to bake quite as long. I'll keep an eye on them and try to remember to give an update. ***Muffins baked for about 35 minutes total.
Looking at it, I think I made enough changes to the original recipe that it's kind of a new one now. Oh well. :-)

Combining the wet and dry ingredients makes this baby-food-like concoction...delicious.

You know that baking is some kind of magic when it can take something that looks like baby food and turn it into nommy treats...including bread that's missing part of its bottom
Finding an elsewhere

I’m not really sure what prompted me to ride my bike into town at 9:30 on a Wednesday night to have a beer, but it’s what I did this evening. I’m also not sure what prompted me to sleep in until 2:00 pm this afternoon. But it’s also what I did. I do know, however, what prompted me to “plant” seed potatoes and collect eggs. Well, I guess it’s not as simple as one reason, but more like the fact that these are things that help me feel more alive and not so helpless as the rain continues to fall day after day. And actually, I think the trip into town may have been a desire not to feel quite so isolated and alone with my thoughts out here at Pikku (while also getting a little exercise since I haven’t been able to muster the energy for a jog in the last three days). I love it here, but sometimes the quiet (or noise) gets overwhelming and I find myself wanting to spend time elsewhere or just be around people, even if I don’t know them or end up interacting with them. In the past few months I’ve been able to spend a lot of time in various “elsewheres” and I’m finding that I need to have an elsewhere that’s my own instead of one that belongs to someone else. Truthfully, the rain is the likeliest reason for me sleeping in so late as well. Rain is the reason I’m home from work in the first place and rain is what kept me in my bed. Funny that last year at this time I was extremely thankful for the rain because it meant I could sleep in until 5:30 AM instead of waking up at 4:30 to water all of my own vegetables before heading off to work. Things have changed.

 

So many of the folks I know that live in Washington or the Portland area (and that’s most of the folks I know) have been distraught and in some cases downright pissed-off about all the rain we’ve been having this spring. Even the Auto Body shop next door that only ever has perfunctory and auto-related items on their scrolling sign has jumped on board lately – April Showers bring May Showers??? – it reads in bright, angry letters. But the funny thing is there really isn’t anyone or anything that we can all direct our anger or frustration at. Who knows if there’ll be a “regular” summer this year. Perhaps it will continue to be wet and we’ll have to adapt and look to a new way of living (and farming). Maybe we’ll all grow webbed feet and bulgy eyes. Or maybe the sun will come out and we’ll end up having an extra-long summer. It’s impossible to know. So we’ll just take it as it comes. I’m trying my damnedest to remain positive about all of this. And it’s really difficult. Wintertime is typically rough for me (and so many other people in the Pacific NW) because of the lack of sunshine and having the gray season extend right into spring is really killing me. But little things like putting seed potatoes into a makeshift raised bed or planting a bunch of seeds into the space where the chickens were all winter are the things that will help keep me going. But wandering out into the space where I worked so hard the last two years to build a vegetable and herb garden was a bit depressing this afternoon. I’ve not had the same kind of time (or energy) as I did last year to work on my own garden and there are weeds and grass growing up all over the place – so much so that my original plan to put seed potatoes somewhere in that area was completely thwarted – hence the use of the makeshift raised bed. But I’ll try to find a silver lining in that frustration and disappointment as well. Though that one may take me a while.

 

As for the pint of mediocre beer and half a basket of crinkle-cut French fries in my gut, maybe I’ll have to go a different route to meet more of my community or find myself an “elsewhere” next week.


In looking to remain positive, the poetry of Wendell Berry is helping so very much. A lovely friend of mine recently gifted me with a book called "The Mad Farmer Poems" for my 30th birthday and it is right alongside the most wonderful gifts I've ever received.


From page 8 of "The Mad Farmer Poems" by Wendell Berry:


   XII

   Let me wake in the night

   and hear it raining

   and go back to sleep


   XIII

Don't worry and fret about the crops. After you have done all you

can for them, let them stand in the weather on their own.


If the crop of any one  year was all, a man would have to cut his

throat every time it hailed.


But the real products of any year's work are the farmer's mind

and the cropland itself.


If he raises a good crop at the cost of belittling himself and dimin-

ishing the ground, he has gained nothing. He will have to begin

over again the next spring, worse off than before.


Let him receive the season's increment into his mind. Let him

work it into the soil.


The finest growth that farmland can produce is a careful farmer.


Make the human race a better head. Make the world a better piece

of ground.

You'll just do it all again

I finally heard the words to a particular song I’ve listened to at least a thousand times in the last 5 months. It’s in the mix of songs I’ve taken to playing on the iPod when I go jogging. For some reason it resounded with me this afternoon while I was jogging in the rain and I smiled for a while after the mini-epiphany. I must have looked pretty hilarious in a blue rain coat that’s way too big for me and hangs almost to my knees, covering my running shorts, smiling like a dork in the pouring down rain as I jogged on the side of the road in town with sand and grit and dirt all over my legs. It makes me giggle a little bit thinking about it again. Thank you for the song, Ms. Spektor, you’re absolutely brilliant. I never really thought I'd be able to say I understood what it means to be willing to do it all again, even if it hurt like hell the last time. But, it's what we do. It's what we have to do. Because the alternative is just not an option.

 

This is how it works

You’re young until you’re not

You love until you don’t

You try until you can’t

You laugh until you cry

You cry until you laugh

And everyone must breathe

Until their dying breath

Oh this is how it works

You peer inside yourself

You take the things you like

And try to love the things you took

And then you take that love you made

And stick into some

Someone else’s heart

Pumping someone else’s blood

And walking arm in arm

You hope it don’t get harmed

But even if it does

You’ll just do it all again

Happy Mamabear's Day
There aren't any greeting cards or gifts or words adequate enough to explain what this lady means to me and all that she has done for me in my 29 years -- you know, in addition to birthing me in the first place.
It's Everywhere
Goodness abounds!

Winter Immersion with Trackers is blowing my mind – the activities/projects/days are not only amazing but the people I get to work with are absolutely fantastic as well. So many unique and wonderful individuals with similar goals but lots of different ideas and paths.

 

I’m finally starting to figure out Portland a little bit. And really, it’s only a little bit, because there’s just SO MUCH of it to figure out. NE and SE are starting to make a little more sense to me. I still sometimes end up on the freeway a little sooner than I’d like to be, and other times I end up driving a lot further than I should just to get somewhere that was supposedly 5 minutes away. But I’m learning, and it feels really good.

 

Hi Portland, I’m glad we met. :-)

 

When I got home tonight, Grandma Lucy had left me a note saying there was Vegetarian Chili and Cornbread for me and that she’d get to the dishes in the morning. That is love. What a sweet gift.

 

I know so very many ridiculously incredible people. And I just keep meeting more of them. Which, to be honest can get a little overwhelming because I want to spend time with all of them. But I just don’t have that much of me to go around.

 

I have friends that let me crash on their couch or at their house at the drop of a hat; something that continues to surprise and delight me and I am so grateful for the gift and still coming up with ways to show my thankfulness.

 

I get so many little (and sometimes big) opportunities to laugh. And it just feels so damned good to do it. I think you might like it, too.

 

I can honestly say right now that my life is so very full of goodness that my heart sometimes feels like it’s going to burst right out of my chest – though in a very good and not-at-all-heart-attacky sort of way. I just don’t know what it is.


Even if there is pain and difficulty at times, I’m just so glad to be alive. And to live life. And when you realize this sort of thing, you want more than anything for everyone else to feel that same way about their own lives. Because it just feels so good! I don’t say this sort of thing to gloat or make it seem like I’m better than other people, I’m just in a really good place and I feel somehow like I owe it to everyone and everything to let it be known. I may not always smile or actually be elated and happy every moment of the day -- because it's not really about being HAPPY, it's more about just showing up and being present for whatever is going on. That something could be a very short conversation with someone you've just met, a walk, a game of cards with a friend, a phone call to someone you're not sure what to say to but know you ought to talk to them anyway, a few minutes outside in whatever the weather or a trip to the grocery store. Just BE there. And see what happens.


Something keeps bringing me back to this place. And when I’m not in this place, it’s getting a lot easier for me to remember that it’s close by and that I can choose it if I want to. And maybe that’s a big part of it. Maybe I’m just getting better at choosing it.


It's almost official
I don't know that "official" is a very good word to describe TrackersNW. And I say this as a GOOD thing. If you visit their website you might get more of an idea what I'm talking about because I just don't think I can explain it properly. In fact, the best way to understand it is to participate in a Taster Day. So maybe you should just plan on that instead (once they update it).

I'm extremely excited to have the opportunity to participate in Winter Immersion. It's not really "official" until I sign the contract, but I am really looking forward to so many aspects of the next three months. I can't wait to have some structure in my life again. I miss the structure of working at Gus and Co with it being winter and the fact that I'll have some kind of a schedule again is a very good thing. It's never something I've been very good at -- giving myself a schedule -- perhaps that's something I'll learn someday. But for now, I will be grateful for a schedule from someone else.

One of the awesome things about Trackers is that they're very flexible and often run on "Flex Time" so perhaps even though I'll have a schedule it will be something where I'll also be learning to create my own schedule at the same time. I have yet to fully understand "Flex Time" but I look forward to learning more about it.

Baking Season -- or something like that
So I made Vegan Brownies this evening and they turned out really really well! I know there are usually two separate camps as far as "gooey" or "crunchy" are concerned but I definitely went the "gooey" route on these. My worry with a Vegan Brownie recipe is that if you do overcook it, it's just going to be super dry as opposed to crunchy. Like chalk. :-) Eew.

I did the recipe slightly differently than the directions called for:
** Instead of Soy Milk I used some unflavored Almond Milk.
** Being too lazy to come up with my own double boiler, I  just used the microwave -- be careful with chocolate chips and hot oil, though. Ow.
** I always add about twice the amount of Vanilla Extract a recipe calls for -- so 2 tsp is what I used.
** When I had finally combined everything at the end I tasted it and it wasn't quite sweet enough so I added a TBSP of honey.
** Added some Chocolate Chips to the top of the brownies just before putting them in the oven.
** I originally set the timer for 15 minutes just to be sure they didn't get overdone and then ended up letting them go for another few minutes and they came out pretty gooey. So if you like them a little more done, go for at least 20 minutes.
** The flour I used was Unbleached White Whole Wheat Flour from King Arthur Flour Co. and instead of spraying the pan I actually used parchment paper. Not such a big fan of the aerosol food products.

http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipes/10707


Fudgy Brownies


Vegetarian Times Issue: September 8, 2008   p.67   —   Member Rating: 111

Ingredient List
Serves 16

    * ¾ cup unbleached flour
    * ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    * ¹/8 tsp. baking powder
    * ¹/8 tsp. baking soda
    * ¹/8 tsp. salt
    * ¼ cup vegan chocolate chips
    * ¼ cup canola oil
    * 1 small ripe banana, mashed
    * ½ cup sugar
    * ½ cup plain soymilk
    * 1 Tbs. flaxseed meal
    * 1 tsp. vanilla extract
       

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 9-inch-square baking pan with cooking spray. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl.
2. Melt chocolate chips with canola oil in double boiler, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat, and whisk in banana and sugar. Combine soymilk, flaxseed meal, and vanilla in measuring cup, then fold into chocolate mixture. Stir chocolate mixture into flour mixture until just combined, then spread in prepared baking pan.
3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted 2 inches from side of pan comes out dry, but middle is still soft. Cool in pan on wire rack, then cut into 16 squares.


It's That Time Again
Mamabear came down Saturday and we went up river to my parents' acreage to see about finding ourselves some chestnuts. And yay! They're everywhere. These little buddies are not to be trifled with, though. You better be wearing some thick gloves if you want to play ball. Inside those mean-looking hulls are the loveliest, glossiest dark reddish-brown (or perhaps chestnut-colored!) nuts. Usually each hull contains three nuts -- most of the time there are one or two viable (sizeable) nuts and one that is rather shriveled, but I opened quite a few that actually had three sizeable buddies inside. We try to throw the "seeds" (the smaller/shriveled nuts) over the river bank or around the base of each tree so they'll sprout up on their own. (I've not boned-up on my chestnut vocab or knowledge yet, so please pardon my obvious novice status). A lot of the nuts had actually fallen out of their hulls right onto the ground and we gathered those as well. Looks like we may have beaten the squirrels and birds to the punch this year. Or perhaps it was such a bumper crop that there's still plenty to go around. And considering what an amazing year it's been for most every plant around, that just might be the case.

100509 (EOS) 006 Pikku Chestnuts on the Tree.jpg

This site seems to have some valuable chestnut info. They recommend slicing a small "X" in the skin of the chestnut and then roasting them at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or so (similar to what we've done for the past few years). Mamabear and Papabear have also teamed up in years past to make Smoked Chestnut Pasta. This year is no exception. Mamabear gathers the chestnuts, Papabear smokes them in his Traeger, Mamabear grinds them into Chestnut Flour and makes them into pasta (linguine and ravioli last year if I remember correctly). Yes, as a matter of fact, my parents are pretty awesome. Mamabear got the idea after reading this book.

Let us not forget the other amazing trees on my parents' property. There's the beautiful and gigantic Beech (about the same size as most of the Chestnut Trees -- which is to say at least as tall as a 10 story building) and also a rather large and friendly Hawthorn (I gathered some of its berries which are known to be good for medicinal uses). [I'd like to say I have a soft spot for the Beech Tree and in fact, I will; I've got a soft spot for the Beech Tree! The trunk and base of it just look so welcoming and happy. I also gathered a few of its nuts to see if I might start a few Beech Trees from seed.] There are also a few Filberts that I visited a month or so ago and harvested a small amount from, but had my timing wrong and didn't realize that I ought to have come back again sooner than this weekend. Next year maybe I'll get it right.

I'm rather in awe of the fact that there is food everywhere, whether we're actually cultivating it or not. Nature is so ridiculously miraculous.

100509 (EOS) 019 Beech and Chestnut Buddies.jpg
Let's Go for a Walk!

I love going for walks. Especially on sunny, crispy, slightly chilly new Fall days. Those walks are made even better when it just so happens I’m accompanying folks I adore. Yesterday I finally had some time to hang out with Em and Morgan and Turkey, their fabulous pooch (and Guido, their semi-new kitteh who I officially adore after meeting him for the first time yesterday) and on the schedule was a late afternoon foraging walk through their SE Portland neighborhood. I get pretty fired-up about going for walks with other folks – there’s just something exciting and wonderful and adventurous about traveling by foot. It’s slow enough that you can observe as much or as little as you like (though usually it’s the former) and you can go at whatever pace you wish. I love to observe the world around me and walking is a great way to do it. Walking in new and unfamiliar places is such an adventure! Not to mention that there was a foraging aspect to this particular Sunday walk and I am all about the free food. Especially when it’s food that might otherwise go to waste. Though, I suppose this food probably would not have gone to waste because there are innumerable squirrels and other creatures in Portland that surely dispatch with the fruit of any and every chestnut, walnut and filbert tree (and any other nut or fruit tree to be found) in the city.


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I don’t go for walks as often as I ought to. I don’t mind walking around Woodland (and I haven’t actually done it all that much, probably because I don’t have anyone to join me and walking is something I enjoy more with a friend) but there’s a little something missing. Maybe it’s the smallness of Woodland. Perhaps that’s something to ponder.

 

I went on a walk earlier this summer and even though things turned out different than what I’d hoped for, that walk was still pretty amazing. (Ha! So cryptic!) I also remember a walk I went on in college. It was an evening walk around the upper Queen Anne neighborhood and there was something downright magical about that particular walk on that particular night and quite honestly with that particular person. Things also did not turn out the way I had hoped in that situation, but still, the memory remains in my head. And I’m happy with that. There was a walk with Kayti last summer when we picked blackberries in the wet morning grass and came back rather soggy from the dew. And last winter, walking through Bellevue with Kayti and her Mom and watching them catch giant snowflakes in their mouths. That memory makes me smile. Often when I go for a walk, it seems to inspire conversation that might not otherwise take place. I seem to think better when I'm walking. Though the same cannot necessarily be said for trying to think and do any number of other things at the same time.

 

I think this fall and winter shall be a time for more walking. Who wants to come with me?


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Lapellah Harvest Dinner Menu August 19, 2009

Oh, the deliciousness will ensue again in just a few days. This ridiculously lucky/blessed/fortunate farmgirl gets to go to the second Harvest Dinner at Lapellah, too!!!!!! Life just gets better all the time. The April Jones crew will be representing, big-time.
Fifteen minutes of yesterday were kind of crummy. But I'm over it. It's hard not to laugh at someone that leans out of a car window and yells horrible things at a complete stranger standing half-a-football-field away. Really? Who does that?
How can I keep making the world a better place one jar of delicious canned goods at a time if I dwell on such things? I can't.
Enjoy the menu. Try not to salivate on your keyboard.

Amuse Bouche: Chilled Cucumber Shot

1st Course: Tomato and Bread Soup with Basil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Wine: Argyros Estate Santorini 2004

2nd Course: Frisee and Arugula Salad with Colorado Rose Potato and Beet Chips
Wine: Trinity Viognier 2007

Amuse Bouche: Water Melon Granita and Ice Plant

3rd Course: Stuffed Green Chili with Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Jam
Wine: Cermeno Tinta De Toro 2006

4th Course: Whole Rotisserie Bone in Pork Loin with Indian Shell Beans and White Carrots
Wine: Beresan “Buzz” Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah Blend 2006

5th Course: Tapioca Pudding with Black Berries
Wine: Inama Veneto Bianco Vino Dolce 2006

Waiting for the Apocalypse

I have a problem.

 

‘Tis the season for putting up lovely green, red, purple, magenta, orange, bright yellow (and any other variety of colors your mind can conceive of) vegetables and fruits. This is a happy thing. But it would seem that the canning closet in the basement is still somewhat full of the bounty I preserved from last season. That food was supposed to be all eaten up by now – delved into and enjoyed during the cold, long winter. But evidently I didn’t eat or share enough this winter. However, this is a problem that many of my friends and family will benefit from now. I’ve still got Spiced Crabapples, Pie Cherry Preserves with Almond and Honey, Hilly Dilly Beans, Spaghetti Sauce, Straight Tomato Sauce, Pickled Peppers (my personal favorite), Pickled Beets and Pickles (Cucumbers). Tthere are at least 50 pints and quarts (probably more, or maybe less – my estimating skills are complete crap). Obviously a person can’t subsist on pickled vegetables and tomatoes alone, but you can sure as heck give it a try. ;-)

 

So if anyone is interested in these canned goods of mine, let me know. I’d welcome a donation if you feel like doing so, but I would for sure like to have a $1 deposit for each jar you end up with. And each time you return one to me (in reusable condition, of course) I’ll give you $.50 of it back. How does that sound? I would much much rather have the jars back then to keep your extra $.50. Many of the jars have been in our family for a while and I would like to keep it that way. This may or may not work out, but let’s give it a shot. J Since the comments are disabled on my blog here (due to drug [Cialis] dealers) you ought to send me an email instead. If you are a friend or family of mine that lives anywhere other than the Vancouver and Portland area, you may be out of luck for the time being. Go ahead and email me anyway if you’re interested and I’ll try to remember to let you know the next time I head North.

 

littlebunnyhill at gmail dot com

 

Everything I’ve canned so far this year (which includes Raspberry Jostaberry Freezer Jam, Pickled Fridge Beets, Frozen Basil Pesto, Frozen Basil Parsley Pesto, Dill Pickles, Blackberry Jam, Lewis River Plum Jam, more Dill Pickles, Hilly Dilly Beans, Frozen Roasted Peppers, more Frozen Basil Parsley Pesto and Lewis River Plumberry Jam) has been grown in my own organic garden or in the orchard at Pikku or on the certified organic farm where I am totally blessed to be employed. Keep in mind that when I say “canned” I also mean pickled, jammed, frozen or somehow preserved. I find it pretty unbearable and unacceptable to allow most any food to go to waste. Especially fresh, beautiful produce. Though I am realizing (though it is probably quite obvious to most) that it is physically impossible to have the time and energy to manage every last bit of it. The fact that I can compost usually makes me feel better, though. It’s not going to waste, it’s actually going to end up feeding the soil and in turn feeding our bodies again next season. That helps me sleep better when I just can’t get to every single ripe plum from the tree or green bean off the vine. (Yes, these [and this and this] are the kinds of things that keep me up at night).


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If you’re just getting started with food preservation I would highly recommend the book Stocking Up by Carol Hupping. It’s got great canning recipes but also a lot of information on proper harvesting and freezing or general preparation of fresh fruits and veg (and it’s a Rodale Institute book). The Ball Blue Book of Preserving is another faithful standby – and it’s actually where I got my Dilly Bean recipe. Another book I haven’t entirely had time to explore but when I checked it out from the library it definitely seemed to have some deliciousness between its pages was The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving. Whereas Stocking Up and Ball Blue Book of Preserving are old standbys with the tried-and-true recipes your Grandma probably used to make, The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving stands out as having some recipes with more interesting combinations and flavors – less tradition and more experimentation. I’ve still got a ton to learn about food preservation and I will – I WILL – overcome my fear of pressure canners sometime in the near future. Maybe that will even happen in the next few months. I am limiting my food preservation world by a lot with this shortcoming and it must be remedied.

 

If you’re into the fruitier side of things, have a look-see at Pomona’s Universal Pectin and get set to jamming. It’s good stuff. I feel better about the ingredients than I do when using other commercial pectin.

 

If you need some food preservation support, I’ll do my best to help you. But like I said, I’ve still got a lot to learn!

Lapellah Harvest Dinner Menu from July 22, 2009

For both courses that included meat, Chef Dave was kind enough to substitute a vegetarian option -- one included quinoa and the other included arborio rice.

Amuse (passed): Fried Squash Blossom with Conway Family Farms Goat Cheese.                                               
      
Wine: Malibran Prosecco

1st Course: “Mystery” Tomato with grilled Ricotta Salata Cheese and Basil Oil.                       
      Wine: Apolloni Pinot Blanc 2007

2nd Course: Crispy Little Finger Eggplant with Yukon Potato puree and semi-dried tomato.    
       Wine: Hirsch Gruner Veltliner #1 2007

3rd Course: Roasted Local Albacore with Summer Squash and Green Cipollini onions.            
      Wine: Evesham Wood Rose of Tempramillo 2008

4th Course: Grilled Wild Boar Chops with roasted Hungarian Wax Peppers and Lorz Garlic.                                                                                         
     Wine: Grochau Cellars Rogue Valley Syrah 2006

5th Course: Mascarpone Mousse Triffle with local berries and lemon pound cake.                
     
Wine: Inama Vino Dole 2006

Hori Horis and Hoes

I’m feeling very blessed and find it necessary to speak out about it. For as much complaining as I sometimes do (be it internally or externally) and as frustrated as I am by so many things in this world, I have a pretty charmed life. I can assure you that this is in no way a complete list of all the things that lead me to be qualified as blessed, but I’m trying.

 

I live in a beautiful house (with air conditioning), on the river, in the Pacific Northwest, free of rent, with my Grandmother. I – for the most part – have free reign over at least ¼ of an acre of the property to grow whatever vegetables, flowers and herbs I so desire (so long as they’re legal). I have fresh, running water to feed and wash my own body and the plants and animals that I take care of. I get to play in the dirt every day if I so choose, and most of the days I do so I even get paid for it. I am grateful to actually have a job. On top of that, I work for a “boss” that is one of the most phenomenal, kind, hilarious, centered, generous, caring, patient, brilliant, talented, creative, organized, fun and amazing women I’ve ever met and I also get to call her my friend. Almost every day I work for her I am treated to an incredibly fresh and delicious and beautiful lunch with entertaining and lovely (and almost always hilarious) conversation. I get to hang out with two dear boys named Gus and Tesla and scratch behind their ears and possibly get licked in return. I have so many incredible friends and family in my life and even though I am far away from many of them, I still get to talk with most of them on a regular basis. I have a beautiful and patient and caring and generous family, which includes more than just my fabulous Mamabear, Papabear and the Reverend Tel.

 

I am privileged and fortunate enough to have the means and the time to grow my own food and a place to prepare it. Even if the oven doesn’t always work or some of the burners are no longer functioning, I still have a place to cook!

 

This Wednesday I am blessed to be attending a special Harvest Dinner at Lapellah in Vancouver. I am being treated to a reservation at this special dinner by the fabulous Aunt Dusty and Uncle Larry – who I also get to see at work on a regular basis. They are part of the April Jones family and damnit if all of the Joneses aren’t just the cat’s meow.

 

I recently got to spend time with my best Lisa and her awesome boyfriend Greg – even if it was a short time it was a good time. We met in the middle (Centralia) and had a lovely morning at the Country Cousin and Fort Borst Park. Saturday night I got to spend the evening at a BBQ with some friends in Portland whom I’ve not seen for a while – dear Gretchen and Jerrod. And I got to meet some new friends, too. :-) Sunday I went to another BBQ of sorts and spent time with some other Portland friends that I’ve not seen in a while. Also a good thing.

 

How could I possibly be unhappy in the midst of so much goodness? Yes, there are often days when it’s hard to see the good things, even though there are quite obviously so many of them. But I will remind myself over and again and sometimes I’ll remember and sometimes I won’t. And hey, that’s ok.

Raise your hand
If you also woke up to hearing the following on NPR this morning and subsequently threw up in your mouth and once you recovered turned the radio off:

Marketplace is supported by Monsanto, committed to sustainable agriculture, creating hybrid and biotech seeds designed to increase crop yields and conserve natural resources. Learn more at ProduceMoreConserveMore.com

Sorry NPR, we're no longer friends. I am appalled, dismayed, angry, hurt, frustrated, disappointed, flabbergasted and let down. I guess maybe I placed you a little too highly up on a pedestal. Because you have a long way to fall when you do something this low. There are so very many things wrong with this.

(Evidently this little 12-second ad has been playing on NPR for maybe a few weeks now but I heard it for the first time this morning. Just type "NPR Monsanto" into Google -- or Bing if that's your thing. I can't say it any better than this person.)

*My apologies to my very wonderful boss who I called this morning immediately after I heard this -- because I knew she would be outraged as well -- for interrupting/ruining her morning tea.