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Friday, August 28, 2009

Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food

This article was taken from Time.com

Somewhere in Iowa, a pig is being raised in a confined pen, packed in so tightly with other swine that their curly tails have been chopped off so they won't bite one another. To prevent him from getting sick in such close quarters, he is dosed with antibiotics. The waste produced by the pig and his thousands of pen mates on the factory farm where they live goes into manure lagoons that blanket neighboring communities with air pollution and a stomach-churning stench. He's fed on American corn that was grown with the help of government subsidies and millions of tons of chemical fertilizer. When the pig is slaughtered, at about 5 months of age, he'll become sausage or bacon that will sell cheap, feeding an American addiction to meat that has contributed to an obesity epidemic currently afflicting more than two-thirds of the population. And when the rains come, the excess fertilizer that coaxed so much corn from the ground will be washed into the Mississippi River and down into the Gulf of Mexico, where it will help kill fish for miles and miles around. That's the state of your bacon — circa 2009.

Horror stories about the food industry have long been with us — ever since 1906, when Upton Sinclair's landmark novel The Jungle told some ugly truths about how America produces its meat. In the century that followed, things got much better, and in some ways much worse. The U.S. agricultural industry can now produce unlimited quantities of meat and grains at remarkably cheap prices. But it does so at a high cost to the environment, animals and humans. Those hidden prices are the creeping erosion of our fertile farmland, cages for egg-laying chickens so packed that the birds can't even raise their wings and the scary rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria among farm animals. Add to the price tag the acceleration of global warming — our energy-intensive food system uses 19% of U.S. fossil fuels, more than any other sector of the economy.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A super duty trellis

We are tired of tomato cages that fall over and leave our tomatoes a tangled mess of diseased plants that are impossible to water, weed, and harvest. String weaving is more labor intensive with the same results. So this year we devised a system that will change our whole garden. Using sturdy metal T posts and heavy welded wire fencing, we erected a trellis that keeps the tomatoes off the ground. As we train the vines into the fencing, the tomatoes grow up into the sun and air never to topple over. A furrow at the base makes irrigation easy. Circulating air wards off disease reducing the need for fungicides. We have been rewarded with a heavy crop of beautiful tomatoes that will continue into autumn. This same trellis will serve future crops of peas, pole beans, cucumbers, and vining squash. As we construct more of these trellises, our vertical garden will generate higher yields and better quality produce.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cool As A Cucumber-Eat the Seasons Friday

This year our garden has given us the best cucumber crop that we have ever had. One of our favorite cucumber recipes is so easy to make. I often ate a version of this when I lived in the Dominican Republic. It is very refreshing and tastes like summer to me. There are many ways to make it but here is how we do it,


3 Medium Cucumbers
½ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
1 Tablespoon salt
2-3 Tablespoons sugar( I like 2 as I prefer this dish more sour than sweet)
3 Tablespoons Fresh Dill or 3 Teaspoons Dried Dill

Mix all ingredients but cucumbers in a bowl. Cube or slice Cucumbers and add to mix. Refrigerate for at least a half hour to allow to marinate. Enjoy.

You can use other types of vinegar. The most common substitute would be white vinegar. I want to try it with Balsamic vinegar next. You can also add other vegetables like green beans, onions, or baby zucchini.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Taco Bell’s New Green Menu

Check out this funny parody video about Taco Bell’s new green menu. It is Eco friendly because it none of the ingredients it uses are found in nature.

Taco Bell's New Green Menu Takes No Ingredients From Nature


Monday, August 17, 2009

They Grow Up So Fast

I was away at a friends cabin for a few days and Michael was busy with work so the garden was neglected for a few days. We were quite shocked to see how fast and large two of our zucchinis had grown. Our food scale only goes up to 5 lbs so we aren't sure the exact weight on these babies.

We planted heirloom zucchini this year. One of the great things about heirloom plants is the ability to collect the seeds to plant the next year. To harvest the seeds you want to let the vegetable mature and get larger than you normally would, I think these qualify the criteria.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Eat the Seasons Friday- Tacos Sin Carne

Our family has an abundance of vegetables right now and so we look for a lot of vegetarian recipes in order to take advantage of our bounty. I decided that vegetarian tacos would be a good way to use a lot of vegetables at once.

To make our tacos we grilled zucchini and crookneck squash seasoned with seasoning salt on our charcoal barbecue. You could probably sauté them as well but I like the added flavor that the grill gives. We sautéed some onions, and cut up some fresh red roma tomatoes and avocado. Everything but the avocado was from our garden. In addition to the vegetables I went to the local Latino market and bought some Queso Blanco and tomatillo salsa to put on top for some extra flavor. If you really want a vegetarian meal make sure your corn tortillas don’t have any lard in them. The tacos were very refreshing and as a meat lover I didn’t even notice that these didn’t have any. The zucchini and squash were a great substitute.

You can get really creative with the veggies you add to your tacos. I think that some grilled eggplant or grilled corn would be a good addition. Do you have any other suggestions for meals that use a lot of vegetables?


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Herb Drying

My husband does all the gardening – EXCEPT for the herb garden. The herbs are in scalloped lined sections in an 8 foot square of our back yard garden. In it, I have fennel, chives, lemon balm, oregano, cilantro, sage, two kinds of thyme, basil, peppermint, chocolate mint, rosemary, and this year I tried Sweet Woodruff until I read about it. It is toxic, except in small quantities in wine. I immediately moved it to another part of the garden as it is a lovely looking plant.

I have experimented with several ways of harvesting and storing and using the herbs. Once the herbs are in containers in the cupboard, they are easy to use. But getting them there is a bit more complicated than I thought it would be. However, it is so fun working with the aromatic herbs that I don’t mind the time it takes.

This year I established what I think will be an ongoing routine in harvesting the herbs. I cut the herbs, rinse them well and put them in a strainer where I can shake them or pat them dry. Then I move them to the drying screen I made.

The screen is made from a piece of nylon screen my husband bought that would generally replace a torn screen in a screen door. I taped the edge of the screen all the way around with black duct tape folded in half with the screen edge inside the folded tape. This makes for easy handling without snagging the edges. Next I folded the screen in half width wise. It is now a folded screen about 4 x 5’ feet in size. I then taped the folded edge as I did the outside edge of the screen, which becomes a permanent fold..

I lay my folded screen on a table or on the grass in the sun. Bugs and stray bits of dirt and leaves will not get inside the screen. The herbs go between the screens spread out in piles. Each pile is marked with a marker showing the name of the herb (unless I know I can recognize it when it dries) if there is more than one kind of herb on the screen drying. I clip each corner of the screen with a large metal black clip, but any clip will do. Weights can be attached to the metal clips on the corners if a breeze comes up. Also, I can clip the edges between the corners together with clothespins in a breeze.

I have even been known to move the screen into the garage, onto the patio, or wherever, if a storm threatens. Between drying, I store the markers, clips, screen, etc. in a Christmas wrapping paper box in the garage.

After a day or two, when the herbs are completely dry, I crush the leaves of each individual batch of herbs into a dish, and discard the stems. I then store them in the plastic, amber pill bottles you can get inexpensively from a pharmacy. I have several sizes as some herbs are more prolific than others. Another way I store them is in zip loc bags if necessary.

The only herb I prepare before it dries is chives. I cut those into small snippets before drying in a bowl or cookie sheet.

Of course, fresh herbs are the best. But dried herbs are great too. Also, fresh herbs can be frozen in ice cubes, stored in plastic bags in the freezer, and then added to soups and casseroles all year long.

I would like to experiment with herbs in teas. Anyone have suggestions? Also, suggest other herbs with which you have been successful.

~Carolyn Christensen

Monday, August 10, 2009

Megan's Square Foot Garden: Gone With the Wind

We too had a huge wind storm that did a lot of damage. You can see our ordeal in this video below.

I felt so depressed when I witnessed the damage one night of storms could do and how our many of our hopes for our little garden had been dashed. And I couldn't help but think of people who completely rely on their farms/crops for sustenance. I don't know what they did when that happened. Turned to what they had stored/ asked neighbors for help?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Flowering Forebears

In the late 1920's, my grandparents, Carl and Gerda Johnson realized their dream, bought a farm in Shelley, Idaho and built a home about a mile east of the city. Gerda loved flowers and proceeded to plant some of her favorites as soon as the house was built. The descendants of those flowers are still growing in my garden in Sandy, Utah. One is a purple columbine, and the other we called "bluebells". It is fun to see these flowers come back each year in my garden, as they have been doing for 90 years. It is a living tie to my grandmother Gerda Hanson Johnson.

~Carolyn Christensen

Friday, August 7, 2009

Rotten Bottoms

I know the title sounds gross but I thought it would get you attention. Now that you are here, read on.

We have had some issues with our tomatoes this summer as the bottoms of our first tomatoes are rotting away. As you can see in the picture it isn’t pretty. You may have the same thing happening to your tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and have wondered the same thing that I did. The question being “what’s the story morning glory.” This leads to a second question about whom morning glory is but that’s a question for another article. Are you confused yet?

What’s the story?

The name of our story is tomato blossom end rot. Say that three times fast if you dare. It is caused by a calcium deficiency. Calcium is a necessary part of cell development and for some reason the plants are not getting enough. There are different factors that are believed to cause the calcium deficiency. It could be that your roots have been damaged or they aren’t established. It might be caused by fluctuations in the watering of the plants i.e. drought followed by heavy watering or vice versa. The PH level in your soil might be out of wack as well.

What can we do about it?

Once you have it there isn’t much you can do to help the tomatoes that are manifesting the symptoms. The good news is that it usually only effects the first group of tomatoes for each plant. As the roots become more established the plant gets more efficient in getting calcium out of the soil. I don’t see any rot on our new tomatoes.

How can I prevent it?

Try to make sure that you water evenly.

Add mulch and compost to your soil in the spring as this will help the soil retain a consistent moisture level.

Check the PH of your oil prior to planting. It should be around 6.5. You can buy kits to check this or take a soil sample to your local gardening shop.

Add composted manures, lime, or bone meal to your soil prior to planting. This is not an immediate fix as it takes some time for the calcium to leach into the soil.

Add eggshells to the soil at the bottom of the tomato plants. This will add calcium over time and also repels snails.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mother Nature's Destructive Forces

After a large wind storm this afternoon, I went outside to play with my kids. To my dismay, I found all my tomato plants had been flattened. I have never had this problem in the past and wonder if it was caused by the grow boxes we used for our tomatoes this year. The tomato cages weren't able to anchor themselves as deep as normal, and is it possible that the roots of the tomato plants can't dig as deep as well? Causing them to be flattened completely? Aghh...I just want to cry. 16 tomato plants flattened. I have done my best to get them back up, but some major damage has already been done.

Oh how I wish I had made Jennifer's Industrial Tomato Cages!!!


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bibbidi, bobbidi, boo!

What a difference two weeks makes!

Here are our pumpkins two weeks ago:
And here they are now:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

NY Times Article: Keeping Their Eggs in Their Backyard Nests

By WILLIAM NEUMAN Published: August 3, 2009

As Americans struggle through a dismal recession, many are trying to safeguard themselves from what they fear will be even worse times ahead. They eat out less often. They take vacations closer to home. They put off buying new cars. Skip to next paragraph Enlarge This Image Chang W. Lee/The New York Times Declan Walsh spent about $300 to build a coop and a fenced-in chicken run to raise broiler hens. Enlarge This Image Robert Bower for The New York Times Lloyd Romriell and his son Cameron at home. Their hens lay about two dozen eggs a week, which gives Mr. Romriell a sense of security.

And some raise chickens. Lloyd Romriell, a married father of four in Annis, Idaho, recently received seven grown chickens and a coop from a relative. The hens lay a total of about two dozen eggs a week.

“It’s because times are tough. You never know what’s going to happen,” Mr. Romriell said. Although he manages a feed store, he had not kept chickens since he was a child. “If you lose your job tomorrow, you’ve still got food.”

As a backyard chicken trend sweeps the country, hatcheries that supply baby chicks say they can barely keep up with demand. Do-it-yourself coops have popped up in places as disparate as Brooklyn, suburban Chicago and the rural West.

In some cities, the chicken craze has met with resistance, as neighbors demand that local officials enforce no-poultry laws. In others, including Fort Collins, Colo., enthusiasts have worked to change laws to allow small flocks (without noisy roosters).

For some, especially in cities, where raising chickens has become an emblem of extreme foodie street cred, the interest is spurred by a preference for organic and locally grown foods. It may also stem in part from fear, after several prominent recalls, that the food in the supermarket is no longer safe.

But for many others, a deep current of economic distress underlies the chicken boomlet, as people seek ways to fend for themselves in tough times. Even if spreadsheets can demonstrate that raising chickens at home is not cost-effective, it may instill an invaluable sense of self-reliance.

“I’m not into that organic stuff,” Mr. Romriell said. “I think people in bigger cities want to see where their food comes from, whereas us out here in the West and in small towns, we know the concept of losing jobs and want to be able to be self-sustained. That’s why I do it.”

Commercial hatcheries, which typically ship baby chicks around the country by airmail, say they are having one of their best years, on top of exceptionally strong sales last year. Most of the birds go to farm supply stores, but many hatcheries are increasingly making small shipments directly to people who want just a few birds for a backyard flock. The postal service said that in the first six months of this year, it shipped 1.2 million pounds of packages containing chicks (mostly chickens but also baby ducks and turkeys), a 7 percent increase from the comparable period last year. That volume equals millions of birds, as the average chick weighs slightly more than an ounce.

Marie Reed, a sales representative for Ideal Poultry, a large Texas hatchery, said that managers of rural feed stores that sell the company’s birds told her they had seen a spike this year in demand for baby chicks...

To read more and see the original article click here.