Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How much wood, would a human chuck...

This totally grosses me out...

15 Food Companies that Serve You ‘Wood’

Manufacturers use cellulose in food as an extender, providing structure and reducing breakage, said Dan Inman, director of research and development at J. Rettenmaier USA, a company that supplies “organic” cellulose fibers for use in a variety of processed foods and meats meant for human and pet consumption, as well as for plastics, cleaning detergents, welding electrodes, pet litter, automotive brake pads, glue and reinforcing compounds, construction materials, roof coating, asphalt and even emulsion paints, among many other products.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Garden freedom

Watch this video: Michigan Woman facing jail time for her vegetable garden

I can hear my neighbor mowing his five acre, chemically enhanced, monoculture front lawn right now, at nearly 9 pm on a Friday.

My favorite part of the video is when the government official defines "suitable." We must all be lawn-loving lemmings in America!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Garden planted

We got a bit of a late start on the garden this year due to a prolonged monsoon season. But on Friday all the tomato seedlings went in. They are (hopefully) protected from deer by adorable chicken wire cylinders.

Pumpkins and squash were planted last week and are starting to poke up. The turkeys rather enjoy dust bathing in the tilled up garden. They made a nice hole in this pumpkin mound:

Gobs of potatoes were planted about a month ago. They need some burying. Potatoes grow from the stem of the plant, so as the plant grows you keep piling dirt around it and you get layers and layers of potatoes.

Corn just sprouting. We have hope of knee-height by Independence Day.

Cultivated black caps starting to turn purple. We also have a million billion of these in the woods. This morning we did a taste test between the two. The cultivated ones are definitely bigger and sweeter. The wild ones have a nice tartness.

This is Bill's top-bar hive. He built it himself and baited it with lemongrass oil with the hope of catching a wild swarm of bees. So far, it looks empty. Which is ok by me...

...because he put it way up in a tree. As he was struggling to get it up there, I said "are you really going to try to get that down when it is full of bees?" He said "no problem."

Since that time, however, he has started reconsidering. I would be very happy if bees didn't move in until the hive is relocated to a less acrobatic position.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Farm to Consumer Legal Defense

First off - did you know there was such a thing as the "Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund?" I'm sad to think of the circumstances that led to its creation. How uncool is it that in AMERICA we have the need of a fund to defend farmers who want to sell their products to people.

Last month they did report on something pretty cool though. Three towns in Maine have voted to adopt the Local Food and Self-Governance Ordinance (pdf). I'm not a fancy lawyer or constitutional scholar that gets paid lots of money to determine the legality of the ordinance, but it basically has the groundbreaking audacity to say that farmers can sell food directly to their neighbors without having to navigate a system of rules, regulations and licenses.

In other words, farmers don't have to pay the state and conform to the arbitrary (and often costly) whims of bureaucrats to earn a living.

How novel, eh? It's like people want freedom in America. Crazy stuff.

The preamble is rather pretty:
We the People of the Town of (name of town) , (name of county) County, Maine have the right to produce, process, sell, purchase and consume local foods thus promoting self-reliance, the preservation of family farms, and local food traditions.
We have faith in our citizens’ ability to educate themselves and make informed decisions... We support food that fundamentally respects human dignity and health, nourishes individuals and the community, and sustains producers, processors and the environment.
Though I didn't ever meet them myself, I feel as if this is really one of those things the founders of this country would say is a pillar of America. Small farmers selling pumpkins to their neighbors without the state inspecting their pumpkin fields and demanding that there be an accessible toilet outside of the house and at least 50 feet from any pumpkins that is cleaned 5 times a day by a certified and licensed toilet bowl cleaner.

Monday, March 21, 2011


This is a chicken. A Barred Rock hen. I don't think she has a name.

She lays TONS of eggs! Today our 10 hens gave us 9 eggs. They've been laying regularly for about a month. Prior to that, they were molting - replacing their feathers and not laying eggs.

We keep our eggs in order by dating the carton when we fill so:

As you can imagine, with 5 to 9 eggs a day, we're filling cartons and adding dates pretty quickly. Until February, we the last carton we had with eggs in it was dated November. Now, we're filling a carton every two days. Our fridge looks like this:

Soon, hopefully, a few of the hens will decide to go broody and hatch out some chicks, which means a few of them will stop laying for a while. So, we're stocking up!

This is Elvis, our rooster. He doesn't lay eggs.

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ball jar geekery

Yesterday, Bill and I had a little cabin fever and decided to go on a hot date to Goodwill. I love Goodwill. A lot. Previous purchases include two lamps and an awesome dresser. This time, I just got a single Ball jar. It cost a 7 cents tax.

It's blue! The color comes from the Lake Michigan sand used in the glass as well as the amount of oxygen in the furnaces when it was made. Ball jars were "famously" blue until 1937, and I presume the color was an important part of their brand, as their home canning guide has been called the Blue Book since 1909, even though recent editions have not been blue.

Thanks to the help of the interwebs, we've dated our jar to 1913-1914. The Ball logo on this jar was used from 1910 to 1923:

The offset "Perfect" (due to the reworking of old molds for a new purpose) was used in 1913-1914 - it was centered in 1915.

There are markings on the bottom - 4 and H. These are mold numbers which identify the machine and mold that made the jar.

It's also round, as Ball jars were until 1942. The current rounded square shape was said to be more efficient by a WWII war board.

I am completely enamored with my old jar. Like my roman oil lamp, I could spend hours wondering about its functional history. There is something magical to me about the basic tools of the past. This old jar could have preserved the contents of a victory garden. The woman who initially filled it didn't have the right to vote. What did the jar hold during the Depression?

Bill likes to think it was squirrel brains.

I won't be using it for canning myself. It's a little grotey for food and the rim has been chipped, which means a seal would be unreliable.

I'm thinking that during its time with me, this jar will hold mostly wildflowers. Hopefully, it will be part of a little collection of neat old jars.

One of my current Ball jars is holding my second batch of homemade yogurt. It is delicious, as expected. I used this recipe with the powdered milk. Yum! We have just a tiny bit of yogurt left from a local diary and Bill refuses to eat it...I guess it will be the culture for our next batch!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What's in the tin?

We have a Charles Chips can which is filled with something yummy. Any guesses?

Want a hint?

How about a peak?

It's homemade hot chocolate mix. We've already made two batches this year. It's one of the easiest, most delightful treats to make. We use Alton Brown's recipe. Bill usually triples it and that lasts 2-3 months.

I think you should try it! The hardest part is finding cocoa, so I'll give you a hint - Penzey's. There. Now you have no excuse. This is amazing, yummy stuff. And have you read the ingredients in manufactured cocoa mix? Last I checked it included many chemicals including partially hydrogenated oils, which you don't ever need to eat.

Also - yes - put just a little bit of cayenne in the mix. You won't taste it, I promise. Cayenne just makes chocolate more chocolatey, as wine makes tomatoes more tomatoey and as balsamic vinegar makes strawberries more strawberry...y.

Up next - I'm going to make something other people tell me is easy and delightful: homemade yogurt.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I will kill a chicken, dammit!

Sometimes I think Sharon Astyk writes blogs just for me. Back in October she wrote about sentimentality (the false kind) right before our chicken harvesting weekend. It helped me put my dislike of processing chickens in context - while, naturally, no one likes killing animals, I could rest assured knowing my birds lived good lives pecking for food in the grass and would have humane deaths. My very participation in the process assures this, just as the squeemish gasps of other meat eaters equally assures that slaughterhouses and Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) are horrible places. The false feeling that you *can't* be involved in processing meat allows bad things to happen behind closed doors.

Today, as I am eating one of the birds we killed in October, Astyk posted about food taboos and how American culture over the past 70 years has influenced the food we eat. In a country most interested in efficiency, modern technology and sanitizing everything, we have moved very far away from eating the way our great-grandparents did. For a very long time it has been very uncool - a taboo - to be a farmer. Only poor people had to raise their own chickens for eggs, so why would anyone *want* to have a backyard flock. It was a stigma.

Fortunately, I think this is changing. When the NY Times publishes an article about a 36 hour meal based on a single goat, when Chiptole advertises the methods farmers use for raising their meat, when insanely cool, beautiful, fantastic chicks like me say "I will kill a chicken," the taboo gets worn away.

My Cochin soup, by the way, is amazingly delicious. It has homemade noodles and it is by far the best chicken soup I've ever had. Bill (my husband, a professional white male) made it all.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Waffle blogging...

This is a little bit of a stretch on "local," but it's still a fine breakfast. The waffle mix is New Hope Mills (so, it's Previously Local) with homegrown eggs - the first of our pullets from this June are laying their first eggs. We can tell they are the younger birds because the eggs are tiny - as is custom for individual chicken's first eggs. They are 27ish weeks old, which is a lot later than our Barred Rocks started laying.

The waffles were made on our wood stove - so, they're, like cooked by Local Fuel. That counts for something, right?

The strawberries are local! They've been waiting in our freezer to bring us a bit of summer in the snow. Jam would be equally delicious, I'm sure.

We also enjoyed tea from a new tea shop we found when an internet order with another company went awry. The tea comes from Germany, apparently, but the shop is locally owned.

Bill bought me a cast iron tea pot (from Japan...) for Yule. We've been using it every weekend.