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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Apron Giveaway!


Isn't this apron by Jedidiah's Novelties ADORABLE??? I know, I know, you ladies are asking yourselves how you can win the cutest apron ever! And you gentlemen know that if you win this for your lady, she will be madly in love with you forever.

Here is how you can enter to win:

For 1 entry: leave a comment
For a 2nd entry: Become a follower Backyard Farming, then leave a comment that says "follower". If you are already a follower, you already qualify for the second entry.
For a 3rd entry: Become a Facebook fan of Backyard Farming, then leave a comment that says "Fan". If you are already a fan, then you already qualify for the third entry.

Good luck, the winner will be chosen Sunday February 28th at midnight MST. Winner will be announced Monday. Good luck!

If you would like one of your products to be featured in a giveaway here on Backyard Farming, please email us at backyardfarmingblog@gmail.com

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Question from a Reader-Chicken Ordinance

Hello there, I would love to get some backyard hens but there is an ordinance against it in our small town. Have you had an experience in getting these ordinances changed? I'm more than willing to work on getting the law changed, but I have no idea where to start or what information would prove helpful in persuading our local government. Any ideas?
Thanks for your time.
Sincerely,
Linda


Well Linda,

I wish I had an answer for you, but I don't. I thought that maybe there is someone else out there that may know where to start. So, to all those trusty backyard farming readers....do you have any suggestions? If so leave a comment!



Comments below are from Dale:

Linda,

Here are five suggestions.

1. Try to identify other people in the community who want to change the law. Check with your county Extension Agent because they sometimes know the people interested in poultry. There is strength in numbers. Your County Agent may also be a useful resource to help you in this process.

2. Do your research on the Mayor and town council. Go to the town council meetings. Try to figure out which one might be open to the idea of changing the ordinance and would advocate for you.

3. Collect information for making your case. Show a list of other towns and cities who have changed their ordinances. Get a copy of their ordinances that your town could replicate. Also have several articles that show that hens are not noisy, do not stink, and do not attract flies. Make sure that people understand that roosters will not be allowed. They are too noisy and agressive.

4. Talk to your neighbors about this and win them to your cause. If they are against you, you are doomed.

5. Remember that you are doing this for the good of your community and for everyone else who wants to raise poultry. If you are just doing it for yourself, you may give up because it may be a diffficult process.

Good luck on your quest. It is worth all your effort. Let us know how it turns out.



Saturday, February 20, 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

Raw Milk: The Ugly

The following is part 4 of Dale’s series - Raw Milk: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


The battle between raw milk advocates and pasteurization advocates is heating up and it may get ugly. Here are some of the arguments.
Raw milk advocates:
“There are health benefits of raw milk.”
“Legalizing raw milk is a way to connect consumers with local farmers and it keeps dollars in the local economy.”
“I want to buy raw milk so that I can make my own raw milk cheese which is safe.”
“The government lets you smoke when we know that smoking kills, but you can’t drink raw milk.”
“Every year hundreds are killed by drunk drivers, but we still don’t crack down on them. If fact, legally you can have a couple of drinks and still drive. But you can’t drink raw milk and drive.”
“We are on the verge of legalizing marijuana, but you still can’t buy raw milk.”
“Outlawing raw milk is a conspiracy by the large milk cooperatives to put the little farmers out of business and to maintain control of their market.”
“The government wants to regulate everything, including what we eat.”
The Farm Bureau and dairy farmer associations:
“If the public hears of a case of food poisoning from tainted milk, demand for dairy products will plummet, even if it was raw milk. Remember what happened to the spinach farmers.”
Organic Valley and Horizon organic dairy cooperatives:
“We pay our farmers a large premium for their organic milk. It isn’t fair for our farmers to take advantage of our marketing efforts by selling the same raw milk directly to people.”
Health departments and health care workers:
“Food poisoning from dairy products is almost completely preventable through pasteurization. It seems a small price to pay for public health.”
“Pasteurized milk is not significantly different from raw milk and it is fortified with vitamins.”
“Pasteurizing is cheaper than the health care costs of food poisoning.”
“Uninformed consumers may buy raw milk from dairy farms that do not maintain proper cleanliness.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Human Society:
“Let’s close down all animal agriculture and eat vegiburgers and tofu.
“Soy milk is a great substitute for cow milk.”
Dale Johnson
I am torn by this issue. I agree with all of the above statements except for PETA and HS. I am a member of “People Eating Tasty Animals” and anyone who says soy milk is a great substitute for cow’s milk cannot be taken seriously.
A coworker of mine who is an animal scientist told me pasteurization does not change the structure of milk, that the enzymes and other components are unaltered by the heating process so that the claim of health benefits of raw milk are bogus. I am an economist by training, but I cannot believe that heating milk does not change it in some way. We may not be able to observe changes with our current scientific tests, but I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the future, we detect significant changes from pasteurization that diminish health benefits.
Maryland outlaws all raw milk sales. Pennsylvania allows regulated raw milk sales by farmers directly to customers. Virginia allows cow shares but in practicality it is a very cumbersome process for the farmer and customer. I haven’t researched the regulations in other states. A farmer in Ontario, Canada was acquitted of 19 charges of distributing raw milk because the judge said he was distributing it to joint owners of his cows and not the public at large. I hope that Myron Martin is successful in his crusade to legalize raw milk sales in Maryland.
My experience is that most people who want to drink raw milk are those who scrutinize everything they eat and that this leads to healthy diets that may reduce obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other diet related illnesses. What are your thoughts about raw milk?
This is a satellite photo of Threemile Canyon Farms near Boardman, Oregon. There are over 20,000 cows at this industrial milk factory. It put 200 family farms similar to Myron & Janet Martin’s farm out of business.



A group of Pennsylvania farmers (many Amish) at a “pasture walk” learning from each other how to improve their management so that they can try to compete with Threemile Canyon Farms.



Here is how I want my milk made - cows contently graze in the early morning fog of a bucolic Maryland pasture.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Eggsistentialism

by Michael

I don’t have all the answers to how achieve a fulfilling life but I do have some answers on how to have a more fulfilling meal. In our quest to become more self sufficient, one of the food sources that we have come to rely on more than anything else is the eggs that our chickens produce. We have found that even in the frigid, high desert, Utah winters, our chickens continue to lay an abundance of eggs as long as we keep them warm. This is done by using a heat lamp. We are continually looking for new ways to utilize our eggs. Usually we will eat them for breakfast or as an ingredient in cakes, homemade pastas, and breads. More recently we have been trying to assess ways to use our eggs for dinner as well. Here is one of our favorite recipes for a nice warm winter dinner that has eggs as a main ingredient.

Egg Drop Soup Recipe

3 cans chicken broth

1/2 cup green onions

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1 tsp soy sauce

3 large eggs

Bring stock to simer. Add green onions, mushrooms and soy sauce. Bring back to a simmer. Simmer for 3 mins. Add eggs in steady stream while stirring. Dish up!

This recipe by itself is very good and you can use it on its own. I think you can use most kinds of mushrooms but my preference is oyster mushrooms because of their meaty texture and the way they hold up firm in the heat. If you want to spice up your soup I recommend making this baked tofu recipe to go with it.

Tofu Recipe

16 ox package tofu (we prefer extra firm)

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tbs. sugar

2 tbs. ketchup

1 tbs. vinegar

dash of chili sauce

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. black pepper

Cut tofu into bit size cubes. Mix remaining ingredients. Marinate tofu for at least 5 minutes. Put in baking pan and bake 15 minutes. Stir, bake 15 more minutes.

We started eating the tofu as a side dish to the soup and I don’t remember how but someone in our family decided to put their tofu in the soup and it was wonderful. Here is the best way to make it. Marinate the tofu like the recipe recommends. Cook the tofu in the oven for 15 minutes. Stir the tofu, and put it back in the oven. Then make the soup while the tofu cooks for the second 15 minute period. Dish up your soup and add some of the Tofu and soy sauce into the soup and you are in egg drop soup heaven. This is a fresh, light, but filling dish that we love in the cold winter months.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Raw Milk: The Bad

The following is part 3 of Dale’s series - Raw Milk: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
by Dale

Bukhara, Uzbekistan. It started with mild discomfort through the night – Mr. Stomach letting the taste buds know that a mistake had been made. Mr. Brain hoped for a quick resolution to the problem. But this was not to be. The digestive system armies of good organisms were slowly being overwhelmed by the legions of evil food borne pathogens.
The next morning I was on a dairy farm outside Bukhara. When I realized that things were only going to get worse, I excused myself and asked my driver to take me back to the hotel. It amazed me how a mild skirmish in my stomach escalated into a full fledged war. As the miles ticked off and I was getting sicker, I rolled down the car window in anticipation of an eruption. Through prayer and perseverance I held it off until I reached the hotel. I ran to the front desk, grabbed my key and charged up to my room. I barely got into the bathroom and dropped to my knees before I exploded into the toilet.
When it was over I grabbed the bathtub to support myself and then drug myself to the bed. For the next six hours, each end of my digestive system competed to see who could create the biggest detonation, reminiscent of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I am sure that the blasts were so loud that everyone else in the hotel was saying “That is one sick American.” At one point I thought “I am going out to throw myself over my seventh floor balcony into the court yard below” But then I remembered my family waiting for me back at home.
What was the culprit? Most likely the unpasteurized dairy products I had eaten on a dairy farm I had visited the day before. Does this happen in the United States? Yes. Every year a few people get sick from drinking raw milk. Raw milk is risky. On a cow, the udder and teats are downhill from the anus and the tail is the path between them. Farmers do a great job keeping the cows, the barn, and the milking parlor clean. But just as the old bumper sticker says “S_ _ _ Happens”. And eventually some particles are going to get into the milk, not to mention other naturally occurring pathogens. And that is why milk is pasteurized.
Does my experience in Uzbekistan keep me from drinking raw milk? No. The farmers I get raw milk from are very particular about cleanliness. Am I still at risk? Yes, but the risk is very small. Will I ever quit drinking it? Yes, when my immune system is compromised by disease or old age. Do I discourage others from drinking it? Yes - young children, the elderly, and those with deficient immune systems. I would encourage anyone who starts drinking raw milk to go slowly and allow your body to condition itself. And remember, there is a risk and this is the BAD side of raw milk.
Next in this series – I will discuss the “Ugly” of raw milk, that is, the battle over legalizing it.
On a dairy farm in Uzbekistan



Dale emphasizing a fundament principle – keep feed in front of cows all the time to improve milk production.



Teaching dairy economics to a group of dairy farmers.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Popcorn is the Tops

by Megan

Did you know that popcorn is actually a really good snack idea? We eat tons of it around here. Here is some info on the health benefits of popcorn:
A new study carried out at the University of Scranton showed that popcorn has some surprising health benefits. Popcorn is high in antioxidants, most notably, polyphenols – a group of natural plant chemicals that have a variety of health benefits. Polyphenols are the same group of compounds that give red wine, tea, olive oil, and chocolate their beneficial properties. Not only do they scavenge free radicals and protect against cell damage, they’re being investigated for their anti-cancer properties and heart protective properties. In fact, the researchers found that the polyphenol content of good, old-fashioned popcorn rivals that of many fruits and vegetables.
Another health benefit of popcorn? It’s a whole grain in the same league as oatmeal, barley, brown rice, and millet – grains that are known for their health benefits. All of these grains retain the bran and germ of the plant which is the source of most of the vitamins and minerals - in contrast to refined grains where these vitamin-rich components have been stripped away. Three cups of popcorn is equivalent to a single serving of a whole grain food. Popcorn is also a good source of fiber which helps to increase satiety and give a sense of fullness and satisfaction that lasts for hours. This can be helpful for weight control since popcorn without butter is low in calories.
Though popcorn is my snack of choice, I am really really REALLY against microwave popcorn. Ok, so maybe I overstated that a bit but I just can't bring myself to buy it. It's sooo overpriced, it's REALLY awful for you, and it makes your house smell like fake "popcorn scent" for days. I know, my horse has gotten so high I just might hurt myself. Really though, here is some interesting info I found on another site about microwave popcorn:
A report from the FDA indicates that a chemical coating used in microwave popcorn bags breaks down when heated into a substance called perfluorooctanoic (PFOA). The Environmental Protection Agency has identified PFOA as a “likely carcinogen.” Another study has found an acid that can be extracted from the chemical causes cancer in animals and is “likely to cause cancer in humans.”
A second potential danger in microwave popcorn is diacetyl, an FDA-approved chemical found in the fake butter flavoring. There’s even a debilitating respiratory disease called “popcorn workers lung,” (the medical name of the condition is bronchiolitis obliterans) suffered by microwave popcorn factory workers caused by extended inhalation of the chemical’s fumes. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, (NIOSH) concluded that diacetyl needs further study so that workers in the flavorings and snack industry are no longer at risk

And now that I've gotten you good and scared about eating it anymore let me tell you some other options. First off, you can cook it in a little oil on your stovetop. There's some instruction for that here.

Or did you know that you can make your own microwaveable popcorn with a cheap paper bag? Click here to read more about that.

Or you can use my method of choice - the air popper.


We own a simple air popper that we got at the grocery store and we are totally happy with it. Even though it's loud, here's what I like aboutit - I can make a serious amount of popcorn instead of the small amount I'd get in a bag. I've got four boys so that is important to me. Second, I can pour the popcorn in and walk away. I don't have to worry about anything burning or scorching or being undercooked. The popped kernels fly out and the old maids that take a little longer stay in until they're ready. And lastly, it's a clean slate - I can add or not add oil, salt, or other flavorings.

Our favorite way to eat popcorn is to drizzle on some extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle some nutritional yeast flakes on and add a little salt. Nutritional yeast is a heavy hitter when it comes to nutrition and it gives the popcorn a really good savory flavor that my kids go nuts for. And for a sweet treat just like Kettle Corn but much healthier try drizzling on some maple syrup and a dash of salt.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Raw Milk: The Good

The following is part 2 of Dale’s series - Raw Milk: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
I drive down a long lane and over a creek to Peace Hollow Farm, an organic grazing dairy farm run by Myron and Janet Martin in the hills of Western Maryland. Beside me in the passenger seat sits 4 glass gallon jugs. I walk into the milk room next to the dairy parlor. The gleaming white painted walls and floor are spotless. But my attention is immediately drawn to the shiny stainless steel 2,000 gallon milk tank. I put my hand on it and it is cold – 34 degrees F. I can hear an agitator slowly stir the milk within. I walk over to the sink and retrieve a spigot. I lean down and remove the plug at the bottom of the milk tank. I attach the spigot and turn the tank valve on to fill my jugs with the precious white liquid. I turn the valve off, replace the spigot with the plug and rinse out the spigot in the sink for the next user. I tuck $12 in a jar labeled “Donations”. I return to my car with my treasure. On my drive out of the farmyard I see Myron in the distance and wave. My spirits are lifted by his smile and my heart is lightened by the thoughts of him and his good wife Janet raising their natural and adopted children along with foster children in need of a home. Lucky is the foster child who makes it into this home for Myron and Janet are Christians, as good a people as Heavenly Father has placed on this earth.
But Myron and I have just broken the law, even if I went home and fed the milk to my cats. It doesn’t matter that Myron let me take the milk for free and I just happened to leave a donation. Even if Myron sold me a share in the cows, he could not give me “my milk” from “my cows”. And this is all evident as the Health department put an end to it in December. They threatened to revoke Myron’s milk license and fine him if he continued this activity. So now my family is back to Grade A, pasteurized, homogenized, vitamin A&D fortified, “BST free” milk. Ugh!
Why do I want raw milk? Raw milk is to a milk connoisseur what a fine wine is to a wine connoisseur. The taste and texture can be savored. Each week can bring a subtle change in the flavor depending on if the cows graze a pasture of lush grass or if they are fed sweet fermented corn silage and alfalfa hay. Raw milk hasn’t been mixed with the milk of a hundred other farmers and pasteurized & homogenized into a boringly uniform product. Some people claim health benefits from enzymes and other components unadulterated by the heating process. Some claim that the larger unhomogenized fat globules are more likely to pass through the human digestive tract without being absorbed by the body, thus making raw milk less fattening. Some lactose intolerant people claim they can drink raw milk. There are many other claims, some reasonable, some wild. I don’t make these arguments. I just like the taste. I like skimming the cream off the top to make ice cream on a hot summer’s evening or to put on my Scottish oatmeal on a cold winter morning, or to churn it into butter for my baked potato or to whip it up to top my pumpkin pie. I also like getting the milk from Peace Hollow Farm and donating to their good work.
Do Myron and Janet benefit from selling raw milk? Not really because the $3/gallon underpriced donation is about the same as the price they receive from the milk they sell to the Organic Valley milk cooperative. But Peace Hollow customers also buy vegetables from the Peace Hollow children or eggs and meat from Myron’s sister. And Myron and Janet just want to make people happy. Other non-organic farmers who sell raw milk do get a higher price than they would from the milk cooperative.
In the eyes of many, raw milk is - well - just plain GOOD!
Next in this series – I will discuss the “Bad” of raw milk, that is, what can possibly go wrong from indulging in it.



Myron and Janet Martin of Peace Hollow Farm



The good life of a dairy cow at Peace Hollow


Milking cows is a family affair


Making corn silage for winter feed


Afternoon nap at Peace Hollow

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentines Day



Love is always bestowed as a gift freely, willingly, and without expectation. We don't love to be loved; we love to love.

Leo F. Buscaglia

Friday, February 12, 2010

Say it with flowers

By Jennifer

Bleeding heart, a way to communicate undying love.

Those crafty Victorians! They didn’t have cell phones or email of course, but boy, did they know how to send a message.

Consider this bouquet:

Here’s what you and I see: spiky blue salvia, pink cosmos and one yellow black-eyed Susan. Here’s what a lady in 19th Century England, who finds this bouquet on her doorstep, might imagine her admirer to be telegraphing:

“I’m thinking of you (salvia) and ONLY you (the single yellow flower), but I’m too modest (cosmos) to say so out loud.” And our fair lady might even blush.

To those versed in the Victorian language of flowers, plants offered a discreet means of communication. Code lists and books were all the rage at the time. Many meanings are steeped in mythology or ancient literature, with some flowers retaining their potent metaphors into today. You can hardly turn around this week without seeing ads to buy red roses for Valentine’s Day, for instance. Because the red rose, with its meaning of passionate love, is the king (or queen!) of flower symbols.

The Victorians attached meaning to most every flower and herb. Undoubtedly plants had multiple codes, but I suspect deciphering which meaning the sender intended was part of the fun. Check out this link for an impressive list.

So not only could you say, “I wish you good luck (allium),” you could tell someone, “I don’t trust you (lavender). You’re nothing but a jealous (yellow rose), egotistical cad (narcissus).” Phew! I pity the poor bloke who lived in the climate zone producing all those in bloom at once.

Several plants convey sentiment in their very names:

(quotations indicate cultivar names)

“Angel face” floribunda rose

Bleeding heart

“Daydream” tulip

“Everlasting” sweet pea

Forget-me-not

Honesty plant

Love-lies-bleeding

Love-in-a-mist

Kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate

Obedient plant

“Romance” narcissus

“Valentine” sunflower

Wouldn’t it be fun to make a Valentine’s card out of seed packets? I think so. It’s a sure-fire hit for the gardener in your life.

You could promise your Valentine the “Moon and Stars” (watermelon) – because yes! -- produce gets in the lovey-dovey act, too:

“Black Valentine” beans

“Hearts of Gold” cantaloupe

“Hungarian Heart” tomato

Instead of traditional trinkets, you could give a growing, botanical version:

Candytuft

“Diamond” eggplant

“Golden treasure” pepper

“Chocolate beauty” pepper

“Teddy bear” sunflower

“Lady Godiva” squash, anyone? (Nah, Godiva chocolates are probably better.)

Show that you appreciate your Valentine’s special qualities by pointing out:

“Good Mother (Stallard)” beans

“Provider” beans

“Country Gentleman” corn

Use your imagination, and let plants do the talking this Valentine’s Day. Take it from me, though. These may be incredible plants, but for the holiday’s sake steer clear of sending a message with “Lazy Housewife” beans or “Seneca Red Stalker” corn.

Have you ever sent a botanical message? Tell us about it!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Succulent Wall Art

I just love this succulent wall art, click here for instructions on Sunset.com. If you are brave enough to try it, let me know how hard it is, I really want to do this. Talk about a conversation piece!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Raw Milk: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Written by Dale

Raw milk is more controversial than legalizing marijuana. In upcoming articles I will explore the various faucets of this hot issue. About 30% of my work at the University of Maryland is spent helping dairy farmers improve their profitability. I have worked on the old dairy collectives of Poland, Moldova, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. I have toured the high technology automated milking systems (robotic) of Denmark and Holland. I have visited the grazing systems of New Zealand. I have seen the smallest and largest confinement and grazing dairy farms of the United States. The complexity of dairy farms absolutely fascinates me and I crave milk, butter, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and sour cream. Dairy cows are the wet nurses of the human species and we owe them our love and respect.
I work with dairy farmers that want to sell raw milk and consumers that want to buy it. I work with farmer organizations and health department officials that want to keep raw milk sales prohibited. Before we discuss the controversies, let’s set the stage. Raw milk is not pasteurized or homogenized.
Pasteurization - Raw milk is heated (pasteurized) to kill the most harmful micro organisms or ultra heated (UHT) to kill almost all micro organisms. In 1924, the Food and Drug Administration developed the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance which has been adopted in full or in part by all 50 states. By law, milk must be pasteurized before it is sold in stores.
Homogenization - When milk is allowed to stand, the fat or cream rises to the top because it weighs less than the water and protein portion of the milk. To prevent this from happening, nearly all milk sold in stores is homogenized. The milk is pumped at high pressures through narrow tubes, breaking up the fat globules which will then stay suspended in the milk. Homogenization is not required by law. Homogenization makes processing simpler in delivering uniform dairy products to consumers. Consumers are use to it, and many would not want to go back to “cream line” milk.
In my next article I will discuss the “Good” of raw milk, that is, why do people want it and why do farmers want to sell it?
Holsteins – the “Mother of all milk cows”, very high efficient milk production. These cows are enjoying a tasty ration of corn silage, hay, and grains in a large, well run confinement dairy farm in Pennsylvania.




















Jerseys – compact producers of rich, high fat milk. These cows are enjoying fresh grass on the eastern shore of Maryland.





















Dale explains a robotic milking system to his university students.





















Dale’s students face off with a herd of Jersey cows. The farmer is explaining his organic pasturing system.




















Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Funny Chicken Commercials

I enjoyed this chicken commercial while we watched the Saints beat the Colts on Sunday. Chickens that take on human characteristics are hilarious. For some reason screaming chickens are comedy gold to me.





You also can't beat a chicken that does Kung Fu.




Dancing chickens are funny too.




Last but not least.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Recipe: Slow-Cooker Black Beans and Rice

written by Megan

This morning as I was going through my options for dinner I knew I had a bag of black beans, knew I wanted to be able to throw them into a pot and forget about them, and knew I wanted to have a tasty (and cheap) dish for dinner. So beans and rice it was. I got this recipe by doing a quick search on the internet. It was simple - I cut it all up and threw it in the crock pot and my kids loved it - my toddler ate two big bowls of it! Not to mention it was all REAL food. The recipe calls for canned tomatoes but I used fresh partly because of this article and partly because I had a couple ripe romas sitting on my counter in need of eating. And we ate it on white rice just because we were out of brown. But it would have been good on brown as well.


I got a new crock pot (or slow cooker) back in December and it has rejuvenated my desire to cook this way. It makes it possible to make some really healthy soups, stews, and main dishes with very little work. If you've got one you know what I'm talking about and if you don't - you're really missing out.

Here's the recipe:


1pound dried black beans (2 cups), sorted and rinsed
1large onion, chopped (1 cup)
1large bell pepper, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
5garlic cloves, finely chopped
2dried bay leaves
2cups diced tomatoes (from 28-oz can), undrained
5cups water
2tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
4 teaspoons ground cumin
2teaspoons finely chopped jalapeƱo chilies
1teaspoon salt
3cups hot cooked rice



1. Mix all ingredients except rice in 3 1/2- to 6-quart slow cooker.

2. Cover and cook on high heat setting 6 to 8 hours or until beans are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove bay leaves.

3. Serve beans over rice. We added lime and cilantro to really make it authentic. Easy, healthy, yummy!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Project Microwave


Last night while I was making soap with my friend Nicole, my microwave caught on fire. I love that my fire alarm goes off when your bread starts getting warm in the toaster, or there is steam coming off of a pot of water on the stove, but when something is actually on FIRE, it doesn't go off. Lovely!

This old thing is going in the garbage, and we begin "Project Microwave". Project Microwave is a project to see how long my family can go without a microwave.

Today starts day 1 of Project Microwave.

My husband Michael, has no idea that I want to do this, so maybe if he isn't on board, we may last only one day. We will see.

I was bummed that I couldn't warm up my birthday dinner leftovers :(

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hello from Cricket Song Farm

Cricket, from Cricket Song Farm sent us this letter, and I wanted to share it with you guys. I love that her kids are now understanding why they chose to live the way they live. Cricket, if you get a website or blog up and running, let us know. I would love to check it out.

Just wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed your blog and for all the wonderful information you are sharing with us. I am a farmers daughter and have farmed the past 25 years with my husband and 5 kids. I grew up conventionally farming ( fertilizers, pesticides etc.) and knew this was not the way I wanted to contribute to society so my husband and I bought an 70 acre farm. We purchased Nubian dairy goats for manure (yea compost!), milk and cheese, hogs for meat and for lard to render for home-made soap, rare breed Jacob sheep and Angora rabbits for wool to spin and weave, hundreds of chickens for meat and eggs, planted acres and acres of organic gardens and medicinal herbs, canned and dried, tried to be as self sufficient as possible. 25 years ago I was considered "weird" but I like to think that I was just ahead of my time and that main stream society just didn't get it. I say,"I have ALWAYS been GREEN". We live in a little one bedroom,( one other room that is kitchen and living all in one,) 700 square foot house. We felt land was more important than a big house. My kid's favorite memories are the nights they spent talking into the wee hours side by side, wall to wall, on the hard cement floor. Summer was great each child had their own room, a pup tent pitched in the yard! We now have two bedrooms so the boys just have to sleep on the floor. Of course they didn't always enjoy all the hard work, but my oldest daughter now married with a child of her own tells me she finally understands why I wanted that life style.

We currently supply two Farmers Markets in Cedar City and St. George with vegetables and run a CSA. I am not technologically gifted but I am hoping to have a web page and blog up soon to share with my CSA customers. I am listed with local harvest. Hope you will check it out also. I have such a wonderful sustainable farm and feel so blessed to do so. An ancient Chinese proverb says, "I farm the soil that grows my food; KINGS can do no more".

Keep up the beautiful and informative blog, and thank you for listening to a little of my farm story. Happy February time to start the tomato seeds! JILL (cricket)

This is what is says on Local Harvest about their CSA :

Cricket Song Farm is a small organic vegetable, sustainable farm located in Southern Utah. Our goal is to provide individuals with organically grown vegetables; return to the earth more than taken, and respect the value of an honest day's work. We participate in two local Farmers Markets in St. George and Cedar City. Members of our CSA can pick up their share boxes weekly at market May thru October.

We raise a large variety of produce including over 150 heirlooms, herbs, and fresh flowers. Purebred Nubian dairy goats, Jacob and Shetland sheep and heritage breed chickens can also be found at our farm. A CSA member barbecue and pumpkin harvest event along with demonstrations of soap making, spinning, weaving etc. is held in the fall. Visitors are welcome at the farm to walk our herb Labyrinth, and observe how their food is grown.

Click here to be taken to their link on Local Harvest.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The demons of factory farms?

by Dale Johnson

I enjoyed listening to an NPR program on local foods. But I was dismayed when a lady called in and said that children’s mental capacities and behaviors dramatically improve when they eat pasture produced meat that does not have the growth hormones and antibiotics from factory farms.
HOG WASH! HORSE S_ _ _!
This is the kind of talk that destroys the credibility of the local, organic, sustainable, or small farm movements. All of you know from reading my articles that I want to liberate the layers and that I am strong advocate of backyard farming, gardening, pasturing animals, local food production, farmers markets, and that I am a fan of Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, and Joel Salatin.
Your browser may not support display of this image. I don’t like many of the consequences of industrial agriculture (It put me out of business as a farmer). But to make uninformed and idiotic statements about it just hurts our efforts. So let me defend industrial agriculture. Industrial agriculture produces good nutritious food with minimal pollutants. Hormones, antibiotics, and bacteria can only be detected in incredibly minute amounts, if at all. For example, BST milk cannot be distinguished from BST free milk with any scientific measurements we have today. If you get a bottle of milk that says “BST free”, it is false advertising because we don’t know for sure. We don’t have a test to detect it and we don’t park a milk policeman at the front gate of every dairy farm to intercept any UPS shipments from Elanco who produces and sells BST to farmers. A correct statement on a bottle of milk says “Our farmers pledge not to use BST.” And almost all farmers who make the pledge live up to it.
Scientists have established thresholds that pollutants cannot exceed to keep the public safe. Occasionally there is an outbreak of polluted food. But let’s put it in perspective. >300,000,000 people in the U.S. can buy any vegetable, fruit, or animal product that they want all year around to keep their family fed on less than 10% of their income. That is incredible. Decades ago diarrhea and food poisoning were common occurrences and you paid a high percentage of your income to get it. We live longer now than all generations before us. In fact we live long enough now to get many old age diseases that we never had to worry about years ago.
Your browser may not support display of this image. So does our cheap corn based diet from industrial agriculture contribute to obesity? I think there is a connection. But I would rather demonize a person who can’t break away from corn chips and the plasma screen TV long enough to get out and grow a salad on their terrace or in their back yard. I love producing my own chickens and turkeys on my pasture, but I shouldn’t complain (I do a little) when I get a pork tenderloin for $1.76 a pound from Circle Four Farms south of Milford, Utah (Look it up on Google Earth).
Please read Michael’s article on grass fed beef. Nowhere does he say that his children are mentally incapacitated or bouncing off the walls because he fed them a Ranchers Reserve steak from Safeway. Let’s defend alternative food systems, but let’s try to do it with facts like Michael does.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

If it’s Not Scottish it’s Crap


by Michael

Before Shrek and Highlander came on the scene, my brothers and I grew up wishing we were Scottish. We would yell at each other in our Scottish Brogue, and pine for a family tartan that we could use for our highland dress. Marisa and I have gone to many highland game events here in the Salt Lake Valley and I have had dreams of being a caber toss champion. Don’t ask me why I have been enamored with all things Scottish for so long since I don’t have any Scottish ancestors. The closest I come is some Irish MacTaggart’s on my mom’s side.

Now that you know some of my background, imagine my joy when I found out that my personal breakfast of champions has Scottish roots. About three times a week I have oatmeal and eggs for breakfast. I cook a 1/2 cup of rolled oats with water, and dried fruit, add a little honey, and in the immortal words of Emeril ,"BAM" a yummy healthy filling meal. Then I scramble 1 egg and 2 egg whites to add a little protein and I am set for the day.

Due to the short wet growing season of Scotland, oats became one of the main staple grains for Scottish peasants. It was ground into powder to make porridge. Yes, the same porridge that Goldilocks thought was just right.

I think it’s just right as well, for a variety of reasons.

1) It is full of Vitamin A, Iron, Calcium, and B complex vitamins. These all help with the health of your heart.

2) It is a whole grain and a complex Carbohydrate. Therefore it takes longer for your body to digest it and it helps your blood sugar level off so you feel fuller longer.

3) Oatmeal actually helps you reduce your bad cholesterol levels while at the same time leaving good cholesterol in your blood,

4) Oatmeal tastes yummy.

There are many kinds of oatmeal and I plan on following up this article with another about the different varieties of oatmeal. In the meantime, here is a great recipe to try if you aren’t a fan of normal oatmeal. I would be surprised if you don't love it. It is a big hit in our house.

Baked Oatmeal

Serves 4-6 people

1/4 Cup Oat Bran

2 1/2 Cups rolled oats

1/4 cup Steel Cut Oats

2 tsp Baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

2 Cups Milk

1 Egg

1/3 Cup Apple Sauce

1/4 Cup Sugar

1/4 Cup Brown sugar

2 Cups Fresh Fruit

In a large bowl stir together oats. Add remaining ingredients (except the fruit). Put in a small cake pan (9x9) and bake covered for 20 minutes then uncovered fro 20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Enjoy!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Is Eating Local ALWAYS Better?

Matt Caputo of Tony Caputo's in downtown Salt Lake, read this article, where Michael wrote about eating local. Matt left a comment and made some really good points. I thought it was worthy of it's own post.

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Thank you so much for shopping at Caputo's and making such a laudable effort to live more sustainably. Our regulars appreciate the same from us. In the last year we switched 100% of our electricity to wind power, started recycling everything possible and using biodegradable bags.

However, to automatically categorize something as having a lower carbon footprint because it is locally produced than something from Italy is oversimplified.

Many locally manufactured products utilize ingredients and inputs from all over the world (of course their are many that do not as well). Many of the products we bring from Italy, come from 100% sustainable old world produced ingredients and we ship them here on container ocean liners, which is a very efficient mode of transport.

A product produced right next door can have a much higher carbon foot print than something from around the world depending on how they are made and transported.

Pasta is a perfect example. Most pastas are dried by putting them into dehydrating rooms that take a lot of energy to run. On the other hand many of our Italian pastas are air dried the old fashioned way. Not only is this more sustainable, but the flavors and textures are not cooked out as easily.

Caputo's applauds your support of local, as we also give strong support to locals when they are producing amazing product. However, it is important to remain critical of local products that use industrial inputs and not give them carte blanche just because they are local.

In our rush to support local producers we should all remain vigilant in order to spot locals using unsustainable production inputs and methods. I have even been hearing troubling rumors from some local farmers and vendors at the Farmer's Market that some of the vendors are just ordering from national distributors and selling it as their own. Not cool considering there is little to no oversight of this.

Thanks,
Matt Caputo