A Snippet of my Edible Summer

October 26, 2008 in Uncategorized


Humble Garden 2008 from nika on Vimeo.

Here is the Humble Garden video for 2008 (I shoot these with my MacBook Pro, forgive the quality). In it I share my family, our organic vegetable garden, our chickens, our LaMancha diary goats and our guard Llama. I also share a bit of my Colombian culture through the music so turn on your speakers and enjoy.

Let me know what you think! Hope we do not seem too odd to you!

Loving CanningUSA.com!!

August 31, 2008 in Gardening

www.CanningUSA.com, awesome resource!

I do not do this usually but I had to recommend this site!!

www.CanningUSA.com

This site is so informative and charming!

If you want to put up some of your beautiful organic garden foods but are somewhat hesitant about canning method and recipes (we all are in the beginning!) then try this site.

Basically, you have two very calm and down to earth people, David Blackburn and Andrea Van Wallenburg, who have put together online FAQs and recipes and even videos showing you how its all done. They even do podcasts. They are, in their very low key way, extremely in to or passionate about canning! I think they are in lovely sunny France, their videos show such a lovely utilitarian kitchen filled with bright sunlight.

www.CanningUSA.com, awesome resource!

I am going to share a few screen shots from their videos – visit their site and watch the videos for yourself.

They show equipment..

www.CanningUSA.com, awesome resource!

www.CanningUSA.com, awesome resource!

They even make and can pork, rabbit, and http://canningusa.com/IfICanYouCan/FishTuna.htm pâté! We have a frozen duck in our freezer (from our backyard), I am thinking I might do something like this with it.

www.CanningUSA.com, awesome resource!

www.CanningUSA.com, awesome resource!

Right now I am brewing up a batch of tomato sauce from our homegrown organic heirloom tomatoes. I will be canning them a bit later today and then put them up for the depths of winter when the garden is a distant memory and buried under feet of snow.

I grew some cherokee purple tomatoes from Victory Seeds and they are funky looking – purple! They are very meaty and went right into the pot.

I will go into more detail about this in another post but I had to share this site with you all!

Let me know if you can anything up and how it goes!

Ask yourself: Are organic veggies BETTER than conventional?

August 25, 2008 in farm, Food Science, ingredient, issues, vegetable

broccoli-450

(This is what you are really getting with conventional and Big Ag Organic food – depleted foods)

Who has not stood before a pile of organic vegetables or fruits and compared their price to the price of the conventionally grown ones next to it? Who has not asked, on some level, is there some real qualitative difference? You likely appreciate the lack of chemicals used to grow it – artificial fertilizers and pesticides made from petroleum.

This question – “Are organic vegetables BETTER than conventional ones?” can catch you because there are several assumptions that are meant to trip you up.

Our first broccoli, for supper tonight

Not all organic growers are the same, what the USDA means by Organic may not square with your idea of it, the USDA is known for letting certain things slide for Big Ag, and many other system issues that have been purposefully institutionalized.

You may also assume that “Organic Food” is more wholesome too.

Merriam Webster defines wholesome this way:

  • Pronunciation: \hōl-sÉ™m\
  • Function: adjective
  • Date: 13th century
  • 1: promoting health or well-being of mind or spirit
  • 2: promoting health of body
  • 3 a: sound in body, mind, or morals b: having the simple health or vigor of normal domesticity
  • 4 a: based on well-grounded fear : prudent -a wholesome respect for the law- b: safe (it wouldn’t be wholesome for you to go down there — Mark Twain)

Unless you are standing in a farmer’s market where the veggies or fruits are honestly sourced from a local small holding organic farm, the organic items in question – in the big box grocery store – are likely to have MUCH more in common with the conventional ones.

How is this possible?

Big Organic growers grow their plants with the same industrial model as Big Agriculture – huge carbon foot print and constant destruction of the soils.

Depleted Soils

Soil, or dirt as some may think of it, is not just powdery minerals. It is a complex mixture that includes those minerals from long eroded rocks but also organic residues from all the activity that has happened in the soil.

Those organic residues can include:

  • Living and degrading plant debris
  • Living and degrading insect and animal bodies
  • Living and degrading bacterial populations
  • Living and degrading mushrooms (mycelium –mushroom roots-, and mushroom fruiting bodies, even spores)

The activities of these living things lend structure to the soil (different zones of life, mineralization, compaction, oxygen levels, nitrogen levels, moisture levels) and also help by making certain compounds, elements, minerals, available, things like:

  • Plant-usable nitrogen (nitrogen fixation via bacterial-root-rhizome symbiosis)
  • Vitamin production
  • Plant-usable forms of elements like calcium, phosphates, and other more rare types.

Our first broccoli!

(Ready to scarf fresh picked veggies)

When soils are plowed, the structure is obliterated and whole communities of plants, mushrooms and bacteria and insects are disrupted, killed, inhibited. They can no longer transmute atmospheric nitrogen and soil-locked minerals and organic debris into nutrients for plants.

The good stuff in the soil is also exposed to the harsh sun, rains, winds – all depleting the soils even further.

Our present day industrial Big Agriculture requires MASSIVE amounts of oil, mechanical toil, and amendments (also dependent on oil for their very manufacture) to compensate for the damage that plowing does to the soils.

Consider these stats:

Raw Broccoli

  • From 1963 to 1999:
  • calcium went from 103 mg/100g sample down to 48 mg/100g sample
  • potassium went from 382 down to 325 mg/100g sample
  • Water content went from 89.1% up to 90.6%

Red Tomatoes

  • From 1963 to 1999:
  • calcium went from 13 mg/100g sample down to 5 mg/100g sample
  • magnesium went from 14 mg/100g sample down to 11 mg/100g sample
  • potassium went from 244 down to 33 mg/100g sample

Raw Carrots

  • From 1963 to 1999:
  • calcium went from 37 mg/100g sample down to 27 mg/100g sample
  • magnesium went from 23 mg/100g sample down to 15 mg/100g sample
  • potassium went from 341 down to 323 mg/100g sample

On top of this soil holocaust, you have genetically modified plants (via breeding and the lab) that have been optimized for the industrial method and which are able to grow in depleted soils.

What you get are vegetables which LOOK like a carrot, a cabbage, a head of broccoli, corn, cucumbers, etc but if you were to measure the mineral and vitamin contents you would find something closer to a wet soggy sponge.

Humble Garden: goliath broccoli

(Ready to eat!)

Let me repeat: Big Organic growers grow their plants with this same Big Ag industrial model – huge carbon foot print and destruction of the soils.

What this means to you at the store, is that when you buy Organic, you are buying a compromised promise of pesticide purity but not wholesomeness. You are buying simulations of vegetables.

Taking vitamins will not solve this problem because they are based on a false premise. Many vitamins are not absorbable by the human body unless they are embedded within the context of food (be it plant or flesh).

The only way to resolve this issue (and just how many diseases arise from our bodies being depleted almost from the moment of conception) is to buy veggies from small farms that are practicing permaculture and organic gardening methods.

Better yet, learn how to get your own permaculture and organic garden beds going so that you can eat REAL vegetables with actual vitamins and minerals.

What a concept

If you are interested in learning how, visit my garden blog at Humble Garden and also ask me in comments.

Humble Garden: goliath broccoli

(Pretty darn big head of organic homegrown broccoli)

Making chevre cheese from our home-milked goat milk

June 24, 2008 in cheese, Food Porn, Humble Garden, Local Food, recipe

(This was cross-posted to Humble Garden)

Making Chevre: Completed!

(Homemade chevre cheese)

We are enjoying our independence from the food chain. We get our eggs and our milk (and now cheese) from our backyard. We eat our salads from our backyard.

If you don’t now, what are you waiting for?!

If you think food prices are high now, you will be pale with shock soon enough. Think oil-based fertilizers, oil-based pesticides, oil-run tractors and trucks, think floods, think drought, think 2008.

secret egg

(One of our hens, Jennifer, escapes the coop every day and lays her beautiful egg in the shed where the hay is)

The seed companies are reporting a 40% rise in seed sales this year (they were shocked, didn’t see it coming, these people need to get on the web more often).

Now that the baby goats are not such babies and are fully weaned, we have more goat milk to work with. We go through less than 1 gallon of fluid goat milk a day for Baby O (who adores goat milk and is sensitive to lactose in pasteurized cow milk).

Can't have him, McCain

(Baby O with new hair cut, growing lots of muscles from that goat milk!)

Our milking doe, Torte, gives us about one and 1/2 gallons of milk a day. Over two days, we then have one extra gallon of milk, works out nicely.

torte being milked

(Torte in her stanchion)

You may or may not know that it is hard to make cream or butter from goat milk because the fat doesn’t separate out (because the fat globules are smaller and stay spread out, like its been homogenized). We could make it if we bought a $400.00 cream separator but thats not going to happen! I love goat cheese just fine.

torte being milked

(Q milking Torte)

We will be getting a jersey cow/calf to have super high quality milk, cream, and butter. I can wait for that.

Back to the topic for today.

It is VERY easy to make chevre but it takes a few days, you simply have to be patient.

We are using milk we pasteurized for this batch, we may go raw with he next batch.

We used a chevre starter from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company, I can not recommend them highly enough.

Making chevre with our home-milked goat milk

(All in one chevre starter)

This little packet is enough for one gallon of milk. This could not be easier, you just bring your milk up to (or down to as the case may be) to 86 F and sprinkle the starter in. Mix well and let culture at room temperature for 12-20 hours.

The curd sets up and excludes the whey.

You then slice it up a bit so that the mass of curd is broken up and more whey is excluded.

Remember that all of the equipment being used must be sterilized.

We bought the plastic chevre molds from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company which I cleaned very well.

These are well worth the cost and will last a long time.

Making Chevre: plastic molds

(Chevre molds)

Using a sterilized slotted spoon, you scoop out the curds and begin to fill the molds.

Making Chevre: curds out of the pot

(Curds and whey)

Making Chevre: scooping in the curds

(Pouring curds into molds)

One gallon of milk yielded three molds worth of cheese.

Making Chevre: curds in the mold

(Filled mold)

Making Chevre: curds in the mold

(Filled cheese molds)

Once they are filled they go on a wire rack over a pan or bucket to catch the dripping whey, cover the tops and let sit at room temperature or in the fridge for 2 days. They will shrink a lot.

Making Chevre: 2 days to drip

(Covered and dripping, on the counter top)

After the two days, the cups were no longer dripping and the cheese was quite firm and much dryer.

Making Chevre: Completed!

(Homemade chevre cheese)

This cheese tastes unbelievably fresh and, I think, uniquely ours. Its a fantastic feeling to sit down to a salad that we grew topped with chevre we made from our own goat. I watched Torte munching on tree bark in our backyard as I nibbled on the cheese.

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