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Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Jennifer asked the other day how I was going to use my squash and zucchini. My hubby Michael found a great recipe to use both, plus your onions and basil from the garden and your eggs from your chickens. Almost all the ingredients were produced on my tiny little backyard farm.

The recipe was found on myrecipes.com


3 tablespoons butter
2 small zucchini, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
2 small summer squash, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1 small onion, coarsely chopped (1/2 cup)
12 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves


1. Melt 3 Tbsp. butter in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat; add chopped zucchini, squash, and onion, and sauté 12 to 14 minutes or until onion is tender. Remove skillet from heat.

2. Whisk together eggs and next 3 ingredients until well blended. Pour over vegetable mixture in skillet.

3. Bake at 350° for 33 to 35 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and center is set. Sprinkle evenly with chopped fresh basil.


Makes 6 to 8 servings

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Urban farming takes root in Detroit

Thanks Molly for sending this article to us!!!

Click here to see original article featured in BBC News.

Could growing fresh vegetables help save crumbling inner cities around the world and tackle hunger?

Reginald Moore and Rod Shepard hoe the ground
Putting in the spade-work at one of the charity's gardens

That is the ambitious aim of a charity called Urban Farming, which has its headquarters in Detroit, the capital of the US's wilting car industry.

The idea is very simple: turn wasteland into free vegetable gardens and feed the poor people who live nearby.

Motown has lost more than a million residents since its heyday in the 1950s and it is common to see downtown residential streets with just a few houses left standing.

Taja Sevelle saw the hundreds of hectares of vacant land in the city and came up with the idea of creating an organic self-help movement that would be "affordable (and) practical".

Beginning three years ago, armed with $5,000 (£2,500) and a pamphlet, the singer and entrepreneur managed to win a wide cross-section of support around the city. Now her charity is expanding across the US.

Ms Sevelle is also keen to discuss her ideas with the new Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

With a handful of full-time staff, Urban Farming co-ordinates the cultivation of what amounts to 500 family-sized gardens across Detroit.

No greed

Visiting one of the largest allotments, on a site that had been derelict since Detroit's infamous 1967 riots, locals spoke about an astonishing transformation.

Derelict building overgrown with weeds and vegetation in Detroit
Derelict streets highlight Detroit's tough past and present

"There is something that every hand in this area can do," said Rose Stallard, who is keen to enlist as many volunteers as possible to help tend the garden and its precious crops.

As she organises a band of eager helpers to pull greens from the rich top-soil, Ms Stallard says food is more expensive than ever and neighbourhood shops are scarce.

"That's one cucumber you didn't have to pay 69 cents for," she adds, with a smile.

There are no fences but one local said greed had not been a problem.

"People are only taking what they need, because they know it's for everybody," he said.

Collective wisdom

Many of the regular gardeners come from rehabilitation programmes linked to the county jail.

Offenders say they have earned self-respect, as well as local thanks, for literally doing the spade-work.

"It's good for me to know that I'm helping somebody, instead of hurting somebody," said Reginald Moore.

Taja and Rose discuss crops
Taja Sevelle and Rose Stallard are keen to expand their work

"All this is positive. Next year, you'll see this all over," added Rod Shepard.

Providing free food on the doorstep brings people together and spreads collective wisdom, according to local city hall manager Gail Carr.

"Fresh fruits and vegetables are something that we all need. And we really, really need to educate our children in that area.

"If we don't, we're going to have a lost generation to many diseases such as diabetes," she said.

The local sheriff's liaison officer, Beth Roberts, said that crime figures had improved wherever Urban Farming took root.

Growing crops also marked a return to slower but better times, she said.

"We used to do this in our backyards. This used to be a culture, a way of life, so we're restoring that through urban farming."

Future plans

As the charity expands, it remains to be seen if enough local people will do the groundwork to keep the gardens blooming.

Showing off prize greens from a Detroit urban farm
Time to benefit from all the hard work
But the idea of permanent social change, away from the old industrial core, is something that Detroit sorely needs, according to the editorial page editor of the Detroit News, Nolan Finley.

"Today's reality is that we have a lot of vacant space, and not much economic opportunity," he said.

"You could have urban farming - you could have livestock in some of these stretches of empty land.

"You could reforest it into tree farms so you're not maintaining a sidewalk, a power line, for a street that has two houses on it."

The conversion from Motown to Growtown may seem far-fetched, but given Detroit's economic woes, marketable ideas are in big demand.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mind Your Peas and Q's

Nothing is better than biting into a crunchy, fresh, sugar snap pea. Peas are one of my favorite plants. I love how they reach out with their vines and tendrils to grow up as high as they can. I also love their pretty blossoms when they first come out.

This year Marisa and I wanted to plant more vegetables than we usually do so we tried to figure out some space saving techniques for our vegetables. We planted our peas along one side of our garden. We placed 3 foot high stakes about 6 feet apart and then we tied twine from stake to stake at about 6 inch intervals. Then, as the peas grew we weaved them through the rope.

This method used very little space and seemed to work really well. We enjoyed a good harvest of peas this spring and we ate our peas by themselves as a snack, in salads, and even in stir fries.

It is always good to rotate your crops from year to year so next year we will plant our peas in a different area. Peas add nitrogen to the soil as they grow so it is a good idea to rotate corn into the space where you grow your peas as corn takes a lot of nitrogen out to the soil.

What space saving techniques do you recommend for backyard farmers?


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Homemade Tomato Sauce

I was given a large box of tomatoes, I gave some of them away and told my husband, Michael that I was going to make some tomato sauce with the rest. He looked at me with a look of doubt and asked, "Really?" I always have really good intentions, but sometimes my ADD tendencies get the better of me and something more exciting gets my attention.

Michael's doubt was enough of a push to prove him wrong.

After I boiled the tomatoes for one minute and gave them an ice bath, Reece was in charge of peeling and pitting the tomatoes. I was a little worried about him loosing a finger, obviously not that worried.

I read a ton of homemade tomato sauce recipes online and kind of came up with my own by combining all the things I liked from the recipes I had read. I started with about 12 tomatoes.

I picked a bunch of basil leaves off the plant in my window sill. I LOVE garlic, and wanted a lot of garlic, I think I ended up putting in about 9 cloves of garlic. The onion in my fridge was bad, so I couldn't use that, so I just poured a bunch of dried minced garlic in the sauce. Along with the box of tomatoes, I received a big bag of carrots. The night before I had pureed a ton of them and wanted to use some of the puree, I used about a cup of the carrot puree. I still had a ton of fresh carrots, so I chopped up one and threw it in as well. The day before we had picked a crook neck squash from the garden, so it was sliced and thrown in as well. Oh, about 1/4 cup of oil and 2 TBS. of sugar were also included.
Everything was thrown in the pot and simmered for 30 mins. The sauce was very chunky and didn't look like any spaghetti sauce my kids have ever eaten, so I threw it in the hand-held food processor. I didn't get a picture of it after the processor, but it isn't as chunky. It made 9 cups of sauce, I put 3 cups of sauce in individual bags and froze them for future use.

I've always heard that making your own sauces are healthier and taste better, but now I'm a believer! The sauce tastes amazing, if I do say so myself. The flavors are so rich, it tastes so fresh, and I could pronounce every ingredient I included!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Todays Harvest

3 zucchini, 3 crook neck squash, and some fresh basil

I threw some wild flower seeds around my front garden bed this spring and they are in full bloom, these yellow flowers are my favorite today.

HOMEGROWN REVOLUTION - Radical Change Taking Root

This is so inspiring to me. The Dervaes family in Pasadena Ca. has farmed their entire front and back yard with edible landscape. I also love their website, click here to view it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jennifer's CSA Week #3

This week's delivery was a bag of green beans, two big bulbs of garlic, a lunch sack of apricots, three cucumbers and a half pound of locally produced cheese.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

County Fair Season!

It’s time for County Fair! Nearly every county in the United States hosts a county fair. Rodeos, tractor pulls, demolition derbies, and country western singers draw big crowds. But I think the most exciting part is the competitive exhibitions of livestock, garden produce, 4H projects, baked goods, art, needlework, photography, and handicrafts. This is a great opportunity for urban farmers to strut your stuff and compete head on with rural farmers. Your urban Buff Orpington chicken may well be the “Best of Show”! Your backyard tomatoes or jarred pickles can be blue ribbon winners! Your children can plaster their bedroom walls with purple, blue, red, and white ribbons from 4H projects they exhibit!
Nathan and Mark show their beets.

Matthew with his prize winner Alpine dairy goat.

Sarah feeds her Plymouth Rock while waiting for the judges.

If you have not been to a county fair, attached are websites for a couple of examples. But look up your own county fair and get on out there. If you are competing this year, good luck! If not, go anyway so that you can see what you are up against and plan for next year. Enjoy the petting zoo. Go for a hay ride. Watch the cows being milked. Talk to a rural farmer. Let your kids climb on the machinery displayed by equipment dealers. But by all means, scout out the competitive exhibitions. Make county fair a rite of passage for summer and an annual family tradition.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

20 Minute Breakfast from the Backyard Farm

6:00 am: Thank you ladies!

6:03 am: Summer squash!

6:04 am: Green peppers!

6:05 am: Onions and tomatoes!

6:10 am: Veggies sliced thin and ready for cooking!

6:15 am: Eggs fried sunny side up! Veggies sautéed in olive oil with herbs!

6:18 am: Eggs on bed of veggies garnished with fresh sliced tomatoes!

6:20 am: Healthy! Ecological! Inexpensive! YUMMY! Not a single ingredient you can’t pronounce!
I love backyard farming!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Industrial Tomato Cages

(Marisa requested this article when she bought 6 more heirloom tomato plants from the farmers market and was unable to find tomato cages at the local super store.)
Want an industrial-size tomato cage? Then head to the construction section of your local home center.

Tired of the flimsy three-ringed tomato cages readily available in the gardening aisles of home stores, my husband and I made it a mission one year to find a better solution. Our requirements for cages were these: they must be sturdy, tall, collapsible (for storage), relatively inexpensive and with openings wide enough to allow easy harvest.

The standard-style tomato cage pales in size to one you can make yourself.

We hit paydirt with metal reinforcement mesh intended for use with concrete.

Each piece is a four- by eight-feet rectangle, with the grids spaced six inches apart. To form the cylinder shape, my husband first cut off the outer border of one of the four-feet-long sides to make prongs, then wrapped these around the other four-feet-long side. The metal is pliable enough to manipulate, yet sturdy.

This makes the cage four feet tall with a diameter of about two feet. Unlike the typical cage, this one does not need to be pressed into the ground; it is freestanding. However, you can choose to anchor it with metal stakes and cable ties.

Yes, you'll note that my cages have surface rust, but they're in their third year of use and are holding up great. I actually like their patina.

These are friendly cages, too, with room for two or three plants. Plant them about six inches inside the perimeter, and equally spaced around it. Not only is this an efficient use of space, but watering, weeding and fertilizing efforts are consolidated. Leave enough space between cages to walk through.

Planted this way your tomatoes will grow upward and upward, and you will be amazed!

This is a picture of my garden from July 2006, when my tomato seedlings had been in the ground for about two months. As you can see, the tomato plants directly behind my daughter in blue have already passed the four-feet confines of their cage. By season's end they were easily five feet tall.

By the way, you may notice the silver glint of a standard cage to my daughter's left. I still used those cages that I had, but for smaller fare like peppers.

I mentioned that my industrial cages can house two or three plants. Which is it, two or three? Depends.

We learned from trial and error our first year. Based on the way sunlight moves through my garden, some plants did great three to a cage. In another spot, light was somewhat compromised by the plants' closeness, and they didn't produce as much fruit as the other detainees (although we still got a lot!). This season I'm doing some areas with just two plants per cage.

Each of our cages cost about $8, not bad for something that can work for three tomato plants at time and last several seasons. To store, unwrap back to the flat rectangle and place in a shed or against a fence.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Taking a Stand

One of our readers, Emily Cole, is taking a stand. As a resident of Wake Forest, she has to jump through hoops in order to raise chickens. She has written an article educating others on chickens and encouraging others to be open minded about it. Way to go Emily!!!

Click here to read the article!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Jennifer's CSA Week #2

My CSA delivery this week was a bag of pea pods, cherries (smaller portion than previous week), three heads of broccoli, basil starts in a gallon pot, raspberries and a leafy fennel bulb. Somehow I feel like making stir-fry . . .

Said my daughter upon seeing the raspberries: "SWEET!" Now if only the broccoli could get the same reaction.

There is no picture of Marisa's CSA this week because she has been gone for the last 5 days and was unable to take a picture of it.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Marisa's Garbage Can Potaotes

After Megan's post on trash can potatoes, I decided that I would try it. My friend Brandi gave me two big tubs that her mother-in-law found out by a dumpster or something. I love it when I get to save some money! I was planning on buying a garbage can, but I didn't have to. I went and got some certified seeds from the nursery, I should have written down the exact type I got, because now I can't remember. I think they are a reddish new potato. I planted the seeds at the end of April.
They took FOREVER to sprout, I thought for sure these weren't going to work. My husband and I would dig around to look for sprouts every once in a while just to see if anything was growing. Finally they sprouted.

The pictures is hard to see what is going on, but the left pictures is before I buried the plant, and the right side is after I buried the plants. I read that you want to leave a little bit of foliage, and not bury the entire plant. Supposedly if you continue to bury the plants until it is full to the top, the bucket will be full of potatoes. I will be sure to show pictures of the harvest.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

just for dreaming of that farm

I found this great website that you can go to and look for large parcels of land for sale. Mmm...it was so fun. I think I accidentally spent a few hours looking around.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Summer Chores

Reece (in the foreground) is 7, he's in charge of watering the chickens, and helping Maya with the food.
Maya (5) is the keeper of the eggs, and also helps feed the chickens.
Lady bug rain boots would make my summer chores so much more fun, I think I need some!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Marisa's CSA Week #3

Hurray, we had something other than a leafy green. We had peas this week!!!

Two types of lettuce
More Tat Soi

Jennifer's CSA Week #1

My family joined a CSA this year with Borski Farms, an organic outfit in our Utah town. First delivery date -- yes, that's right, delivery -- was the 4th of July. Since we were on an overnight trip on the 3rd, we left an ice-packed cooler on our front porch with a note to please put the share there.

My kids were delighted to come home and see what we got! We received a paper lunch bag of delicious cherries, and bigger bags of English peas and washed salad greens. The CSA also included a bag of Anasazi dried beans, harvested last fall.

So far I am pleased with the quality and variety. The "excitement factor" for my children is a bonus.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day: Eat something Yummy!

One of those is a goose egg, can you tell which one?

Spinach, tomatoes (on the vine of course), and garlic

sprinkle some goat or feta cheese on it
(notice the knife on the right side of the picture, shoved under the burner so we don't get a lopsided omelet, maybe it is time for a new stove!)

absolutely delish!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Tat Soi Recipe

Like I promised, I would try out the Tat Soi recipe, I received Tat Soi in my CSA last week and didn't know what to do with it. If you remember my neighbor/friend Tressa tried it out and her kids loved it. My kids don't enjoy healthy meals as much as hers do. Come to dinner at my house and you will hear things like, "Nasty, what is that? I'm not eating that! I don't think I'm hungry anymore!" At which my husband and I reply with something like, "Great, more for me!" or sometimes there is a threat in there, "Alright, but don't you even think you are having dessert tonight!" Every once in a while, we play the guilt route, "Do you understand how long I spent making this meal? How do you think it makes me feel when you say something like that?" Then of course if I'm in a bad mood, I might just send them to their rooms for being so rude.

Last night was no different. The kids come running in the house for dinner claiming they are starving, they took one look at it and said, "Gross, pasta with cooked lettuce?" At which my 2 year old, Mason, claimed, "I don't wike pasta wit wettuce!"

Due to threats of no cake unless the plates are licked clean, they ate their "pasta with cooked lettuce", and they liked it! They didn't devour it with the vigor Tressa's kids ate it, but they ate, liked it and asked for more, and in the end, they got their cake.