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Friday, July 31, 2009

Eat the Seasons - Nuke the Zuke

When you grow zucchini, even a single plant, you get inundated with the stuff. A great way to use the bounty is in zucchini bread.

Maybe you're like me, though, and absolutely hate to fire up the oven on hot summer days. One option is to grate zucchini and freeze it in bags to use later like, say, winter. (Pick portion sizes that match the quantities in your recipes.)

Or, you can keep your cool with baked goods by using your microwave. Truly!

I used my favorite zucchini bread recipe, which makes two loaves. I have silicone loaf pans (which are great for the microwave and my preference for this recipe), but I also tested this in a glass loaf pan. Silicone pans do not need to be greased; glass should either be lined with wax paper or greased and floured.

The method for micrwave quick breads is as follows: Do one loaf at a time. If using a glass loaf dish, place on inverted microwave-safe saucer or small plate. Cook at medium power (50 percent) for nine minutes, rotating pan a quarter turn every three minutes if you don't have a turntable. Then cook at full power for 7-10 minutes. Check for any "wet" spots in the center after 7 minutes, and cook in minute increments if needed. You don't want any unbaked batter in the center. Watch closely, as the loaf can go from done to overdone quickly. (The glass pan cooked faster.) Let stand 5-10 minutes, and remove from pan.

Despite cooking the two loaves separately, this still was faster than the hour they would have spent in the conventional oven -- and the hours it would take for my house to cool back down.


3 eggs
1 cup total of oil and applesauce -- I like to use 1/2 cup of each
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
1 Tablespoon vanilla

Sift together:
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon cinnamon (yep, 1 whole Tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Add sifted dry ingredients to zucchini mixture and stir well.

If using microwave, follow directions above.

If using conventional oven, place in two greased and floured loaf pans, and bake at 325 degrees for one hour.

What's in season (from here until the end of summer!): zucchini

~ Jennifer

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pick your battles and your hens...

Last week a friend was visiting and while showing her kids our hens she asked, "How many eggs do you get - about 1 a week?" I was proud to say that my two hens, Cracker and Marshmallow, each lay an egg a day - though it's actually a pretty good question since egg production is different with every chicken. They are Delawares and like all chickens their potential for egg laying is directly linked to breed. In the past I've had several breeds ranging from Rhode Island Reds to Australorps to Bantam Brahmas and some would lay as often as twice a day and some only twice a week. I didn't mind some of my chickens laying less - I chose their breed because they were pretty. As you can see the Delaware isn't really flashy but it's a great producer of extra large brown eggs. Here's what mypetchicken.com had to say about them:
The Delaware is a relatively new breed of chicken, having only been developed in 1940. They're a cross between New Hampshire Reds and Barred Plymouth Rocks with the goal of maintaining the prolific egg production of these two breeds but increased meat value. They're a lovely, calm white breed with black feathers around the neck and the tip of the tail, and with some black striations also working their way into the back.
I really love being able to go and research breeds at that site and potential egg production is only one reason to do that among many. You may want to know if a breed is comfortable with confinement or hardy in the winter or if it lays colorful eggs. Or you may just want to browse around and see the different beautiful breeds out there. Either way, it is helpful to do your research before you get your chickens, especially if you are hoping to get a certain amount of eggs per week or if you hope to breed your birds(some breeds make better mothers). At their site they have a "breed recommender tool" where you can enter in certain criteria to give you some suggestions on breeds. And while I won't be able to add any birds to my flock this year, I can't help but dream of some I might get after we move next year.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Seed Savings

Here at Backyard Farming we talk all the time about starting from seeds for our vegetable gardens so we can be able to grow more diverse varieties such as heirlooms that you can't find as transplants at the local store. This summer I also decided to start some flowers from seed. My original purpose in doing this was to give my kids the opportunity to grow something themselves but it didn't take long to realize that by starting from seed I was saving a lot of money.

In the past when I had the itch to add some color to my garden I'd go to the local nursery and spend $30-$50 only to come home and realize that the amount of plants I had purchased would only cover a small part of my yard. This year I bought three seed packets and one seed starting tray which totaled at about $10. After giving away about half of my flowers to friends I was left with about 40 flower plants for my own garden. I added up how much buying those plants at the store would cost me and realized I was quickly going over an amount I'd ever spend - upwards of $120 dollars. So this year I have been able to cover a large amount of my yard with beautiful color for a fraction of the cost. And both my children and I have the satisfaction of knowing that we nurtured these flowers from seeds that were as small as the tip of a ball point pen. Next year I am going to triple my seed starting for flowers to have an explosion of colors and scents to enjoy all season long!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hello From Kazakhstan

I am here working with agricultural advisors who help farmers increase their production. Here are a few pictures.

At a huge market, a vendor asks my partner to try the dried apricots to go with the almonds he just purchased. There is literally hundreds of displays of every kind of produce in this market. In the meat section, I saw hanging carcasses of many species of animals include horses that the butchers were cutting up. The skinned heads of the animals (including horses) were displayed for purchase as people eat various parts of the heads too.

At a celebration banquet, as the honored guest, I received the lambs head and got to be the first one to take a bite out it. They carved of a ring of gristle from the ear and I stuck it in my mouth. I gagged a bit and put it in my cheek for storage until I could discreetly remove it later. I knew that if I tried to chew and swallow it, the OUTCOME might be quite embarrassing. Below the lambs head you can see horse meat – yum, yum (It doesn’t taste like chicken).

At a sheep ranch out on the desert. I was lucky that I was wearing my riding boots.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Great Pumpkin

I, like Linus from The Peanuts, would be willing to sit in the pumpkin patch waiting for The Great Pumpkin to arrive for a very long time. That is because I love pumpkins. I love their colors, their taste, their shapes. Maybe it's because they remind me of my favorite season - autumn. And this year we are growing our own pumpkins and I couldn't be more excited. Here are our first two pumpkin babies. Yesterday they were the size of a lemon - today an apple - what growers!

My pumpkins want to spread out and cover a large area but because I am square foot gardening they are growing up. Everyone that sees them asks, a little perplexed, "Will they be able to hang on when they get bigger?" And even though this is my first time I'm pretty sure they will. At least that's what Mel Bartholomew has promised! And I promise to keep you updated!

Here are some fun facts about the pumpkin:

The pumpkin is the state fruit of New Hampshire.

Pumpkins that are still small and green may be eaten in the same way as squash or zucchini!

Pumpkins originated in North America. The oldest evidence of pumpkin-related seeds dating between 7000 and 5500 B.C., were found in Mexico.

In September 2007, Joe Jutras (of Rhode Island) obtained the title of world’s largest pumpkin with a cream-colored, 1,689-pound (766.12-kilogram) fruit. He is currently said to be working on producing a giant orange pumpkin, as orange pumpkins tend to be smaller and have thinner shells but are more desirable in appearance.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

100 Degrees of Peas

I want to share with you a success story from my garden. It has been in the 90s all week here, even reaching 100 degrees, yet my pea plants are still producing. I saw more blossoms when I harvested today -- amazing! The seed variety is Lincoln.

You really should look for it.

The heat of summer, after all, is a great time to buy seeds. What's that you say -- you've already planted everything? So you're telling me that your mind is too occupied with weeding, watering and harvesting to possible think of any more seeds?

Well, take a welcome break from your chores and head to the store or pore over a catalog. Since there isn't the same demand for seeds right now as during the early springtime boom, stores may be looking to unload their stock for less.

It's standard for seed packets to be marked with the year they were processed. This does not mean you have to use them that year! Seeds can last for several seasons when stored in a cool, dry place (like the refrigerator). Maybe during the spring you passed up on purchasing a certain seed variety because you realized you'd already missed the planting timeframe. Obtaining discounted off-season seeds now and storing them carefully is a cost-effective way to get a jump on future plantings.

Plus, now is the time to plan for fall crops. Veggies that like the coolness of spring can be planted in late summer to mature when temperatures drop in the fall. I'll plant my peas again in November.

In the meantime you know I'll be checking out every seed rack I see. Help me form an educated shopping list by sharing what seed varieties have been a perfect match to conditions in your own gardens.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Eat the Seasons - Rhubarb Crisp

If you have yet to try rhubarb - why not do it this year? It's a real treat!

Rhubarb Crisp


Serves 12

  • 2 pounds rhubarb, sliced crosswise 3/4 inch thick
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, combine the rhubarb, 1 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup flour; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine remaining 1/2 cup flour and the butter. Pulse until the butter pieces are pea-size. Add brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon. Pulse to combine. Sprinkle over rhubarb.
  3. Bake until rhubarb is tender and topping is golden, 35 to 45 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream, if desired.
* recipe taken from marthastewart.com

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Concerns growing over superbugs in our food

click here for the original link

The meat you buy could be contaminated with drug-resistant MRSA

By Stephanie Woodard
Prevention Magazine
updated 6:16 a.m. MT, Wed., July 15, 2009

About two years ago, dozens of workers at a large chicken hatchery in Arkansas began experiencing mysterious skin rashes, with painful lumps scattered over their hands, arms, and legs.

"They hurt real bad," says Joyce Long, 48, a 32-year veteran of the hatchery, where until recently, workers handled eggs and chicks with bare hands. "When we went and got cultured, doctors told us we had a superbug."

Its name, she learned, was MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This form of staph bacteria developed a mutation that resists antibiotics (including methicillin), making it hard to treat, even lethal. According to the CDC, certain types of MRSA infections kill 18,000 Americans a year — more than die from AIDS.

Soon co-workers at the nearby processing plant, where hundreds of thousands of chicken carcasses are prepped daily for sale, began finding the lumps. Dean Reeves, 50, an 11-year employee, went to the hospital with an excruciating bump on her thigh she thought was a spider bite.

It wasn't: She, too, had contracted MRSA, as had her husband, Bill, 46, who also works at the facility. Since late 2007, Dean has had monthly relapses. Even the safety glasses, gloves, and smocks workers wear (along with upgraded regular cleaning of equipment) aren't enough to protect them, says Bill. "We work so fast, we often stick ourselves with knives or scissors and get blood on us from head to foot." When a swelling rose over one of his eyes, he was told he might go blind; if the infection progressed to his brain, he'd die.

Did any food safety agency test for MRSA in this plant's chickens, which were then sold to the public and served on American dinner tables? Did any government organization determine the source of the outbreak? Calls to the USDA, CDC, and Arkansas Department of Health yielded a no to both questions; the poultry company that owns the operation did not respond to multiple requests for a comment from Prevention. Yet in recent years, studies have found MRSA in retail cuts of pork, chicken, beef, and other meats in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

To get answers, we investigated how MRSA has entered our food supply with limited government response; we considered the massive use of antibiotics in agriculture and its role in creating resistant microbes like MRSA; and we examined the safety of supermarket meat. Here, we offer our findings and expert advice to protect you and your family.

Are you at risk?
You've probably heard of people contracting certain strains of MRSA in hospitals, where it causes many illnesses: postsurgical infections, pneumonia, bacteremia, and more. Others encounter different types of the bug in community centers such as gyms, where skin contact occurs and items like sports equipment are shared; this form causes skin infections that may become systemic and turn lethal.

Then in 2008, a new source and strain of MRSA emerged in the United States. Researcher Tara Smith, PhD, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa, studied two large Midwestern hog farms and found the strain, ST398, in 45 percent of farmers and 49 percent of pigs. The startling discovery — and the close connection between animal health and our own that it implied — caused widespread publicity and much official hand-wringing. To date, though, the government has yet to put a comprehensive MRSA inspection process in place, let alone fix our problematic meat-production system.

You may not have the same close contact with meat that a processing plant worker has, but scientists warn there is reason for concern: Most of us handle meat daily, as we bread chicken cutlets, trim fat from pork, or form chopped beef into burgers. Cooking does kill the microbe, but MRSA thrives on skin, so you can contract it by touching infected raw meat when you have a cut on your hand, explains Stuart Levy, MD, a Tufts University professor of microbiology and medicine. MRSA also flourishes in nasal passages, so touching your nose after touching meat gives the bug another way into your body, adds Smith.

Tainted meat exposed
Extensive research in Europe and Asia has found MRSA in many food animal species, and in the past year, US researchers have begun testing meat sold here. Scientists at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center tested 120 cuts of locally purchased meat and found MRSA in 4 percent of the pork and 1 percent of the beef. A University of Maryland scientist found it in 1 out of 300 pork samples from the Washington, DC, area. And a study in Canada (from which we import thousands of tons of meat annually) found MRSA in 9 percent of 212 pork samples. The percentages may be small, but according to the USDA, Americans eat more than 180 million pounds of meat every day. "When you consider the tiny size of the meat studies, the fact that they found any contamination at all is amazing," says Steven Roach, public health program director for Food Animal Concerns Trust.

In some cases, the tainted meat probably came from infected animals; in others, already infected humans could have passed on MRSA to the meat during processing. Regardless of where it originated, even a small proportion of contaminated meat could mean a tremendous amount of MRSA out there. "We need more US research to figure out what's going on," says Roach.

MRSA is so common in the United States that it accounts for more than half of all soft-tissue and skin infections in ERs. The CDC estimates that invasive MRSA infections (those that entered the bloodstream) number more than 94,000 a year. Even more troubling, if you add up the other types of illnesses MRSA can cause, including urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and inpatient skin infections, the total could be 8 to 11 times more than that, reports a study by epidemiologist William Jarvis, MD, of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. The numbers are high and rising: From 1996 to 2005, MRSA-related hospitalizations increased nearly tenfold.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Today's Harvest

It's like Christmas in July!

1 yellow crookneck squash
2 zucchini
4 golden beets
5 carrots

~Marisa & Michael

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Broilers 101

This season Dale documented his experience raising and "harvesting" what started out as 50 broilers.  Broilers are meat chickens as opposed to chickens you keep for eggs.  If you missed it or wanted to see the videos back to back you can follow his journey here:

We are so grateful that Dale shared this with us.  What an informative and really quite interesting series!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Megan's Square Foot Garden - 6 week update

Everything is coming along really well - especially the basil, corn & pumpkins.  I haven't had to pull one weed and I've yet to fertilize.  What an easy way to garden, I'd say!  Here's a comparison of how it looked six weeks ago and today:


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Food, INC.

Here at Backyard Farming, we are so excited about this movie. Hopefully it will raise awareness as to where our food is coming from, what our food is actually made of, and the importance of eating locally. Check out the trailer.

And click here to check out the website.

Monday, July 6, 2009

June Harvest

Marisa and I decided to weigh all of he food that we harvest this year for a few reasons. First, we have never done it and we are interested in what we actually grow. Second, we want to document our bounty for those that don’t have gardens or don’t think it’s worth having one because their property is too small. We live on .11 acres and our garden is a very small part of our property. I think many will be surprised at how much we grow. We will give a monthly report documenting what we have grown so far.

June Harvest

Lettuce (various types): 2 lbs 1 7/8 oz
Peas: 3 lbs
Strawberries: 4 lbs 3/8 oz
Green Beans (One plant that our son got in Sunday School): 1 oz
Green onion: 1 ¾ oz (We didn't plant green onions this year, it just showed up)
Chives: 2 oz

This adds up to a grand total of 9 lbs of produce in the month of June. I bet we double this in July. We should start harvesting summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes and maybe cucumbers this month. What is your guess on what our yield is?


Friday, July 3, 2009

Lettuce All Give Thanks-Eat the Seasons Friday

Lettuce All Give Thanks....

to the bounty of summer. The other day Marisa asked me to make a salad for dinner which gave me the opportunity to go out to the garden to forage. There is nothing better than a salad that was picked 15 minutes earlier. I was able to get some of our Green Oakleaf lettuce and our Forellenschuss Lettuce. We also had some sweet peas and strawberries to add to it. Here is a photo of the pickings.

I made sure to wash these as we had sprayed the vegetables with our homemade bug spray the week before. Then I mixed everything together and Marisa made a great salad dressing. She got the recipe from our sister-in-laws’ mother Irma. Here is the recipe.

Poppy Seed Salad Dressing

1/2 Cup Canola oil
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Poppy seed
2 Tbsps. Worcestershire sauce

Mix well until the sugar is dissolved.

Put them all together and you have a great salad, fresh from the garden with ingredients that you can pronounce. No preservatives, no additives, just a whole lot of tasty.
What's in Season?