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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fall Planting: Garlic

One of the things that I love about gardening is that it never ends. Even as fall approaches and we start seeing some of our plants dying we can still start preparing for next years harvest. Gardening teaches us about planning for the future, and not getting everything we want now. It shows us what our hard work, and natures gifts can bring. Gardening is a hobby of hope, building on the failures of past, anticipating the harvest of the future. Gardeners always look forward, not forgetting the past, but seeing the past as a stepping stone to future abundance.

Winter is on the horizon here in Utah but it is still a good time to prepare for next year. Start thinking about what you want to grow. I am excited for Marisa and I to get a property (which I think will happen soon) and the first thing I will plant this fall is garlic. I just ordered my garlic bulbs from the seed savers exchange.

You can plant garlic in the spring but if you want bigger better garlic, it is normally better to plant them in the fall. The best time is between September 15th to November 30th while the soil temperature is around 60 degrees F. Most of you still have some time before you buy your garlic seed bulbs and plant them but it is not a bad idea to prepare the soil now.

Garlic is pretty hardy, but you can improve your chance of success by preparing the soil and choosing the right spot to plant. Find an area in your garden that gets plenty of sun, with soil that is not too damp. Till your soil now, add some of the compost from your compost heap, and work it in. Most areas are still warm enough where the soil will have a chance to break down the compost even further, getting it ready to nourish your garlic as it springs to life next year.

Most places that provide garlic seed (which are just cloves of garlic prepared for planting) will provide you with instructions on how much room to give each clove and how deep to plant them. If you are interested in companion planting you can plant garlic next to beets, cabbage, and lettuce as it is said to improve the flavor of beets and it is a natural pesticide for aphids and other pests that threaten lettuce. Keep garlic away from potatoes, peas. and legumes.

We will post next year on when and how to harvest garlic. In the meantime start planning all of the wonderful meals you will eat with garlic to accentuate your fresh vegetables.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


We're so busy watching out for what's just ahead of us that we don't take time to enjoy where we are.

-Bill Watterson

Friday, August 27, 2010

How to Raise Kids Awareness to the Benefits of Healthy Foods

Earlier this summer I went on a road trip with my three oldest children to Grand Forks North Dakota. While we were there we went to the famous Whitey's to eat (get the fresh Walleye). For their appetizer they serve a liver pate with crackers and fresh vegetables. My kids did not want to have anything to do with the pate but they downed the plate of fresh veggies like it was going out of style. My Brother's were amazed at how fast they ate the veggies and that they chose them over crackers and bread. I was pleased to say the least.

Don't get me wrong, my kids would sell me up the river for a Starburst or a Tootsie Pop but in general they are open to healthy foods. I have often wondered what things parents can do to inspire the next generation to eat right. I have a few ideas on what has worked for us.

Let them garden: In my opinion, if you want your kids to eat and like veggies, they need to help you in the garden. My children are much more inclined to eat veggies that they know they have grown. At times Mason has said that he doesn't want anything, but if we point out that it came from the garden, then he is all in.

Give them healthy choices: We always have fresh fruit and veggies and the kids can eat them for a "healthy snack" when they need something to tide them over until dinner. Their favorites are apples, jicama, and raw beets.

Set an example: Kids do what their parents do. If you eat healthy then they will follow. Children have a strong sense of hypocrisy and they watch to see what you are doing. I try to hide my diet soda vice from them for this reason but they know better.

Along these lines Jamie Oliver has a new challenge on openIDEO. Watch the video to get a feel about the challenge but he wants people to present ideas on how to help children eat healthier. Comment on this post on what you do to help kids eat healthy and then go to this link to submit your ideas in his contest.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Real Simple Egg Freshness Test

Test eggs’ freshness. Unsure how long that carton has been sitting in the back of the refrigerator? Simply drop each egg into a bowl of water. If it lies on its side on the bottom, it’s fresh. If it stands on end, use it within a couple of days. Eggs that float to the top should be tossed on the spot. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Raw Milk Consumers Win Round One

Judge Refuses to Dismiss Challenge to FDA’s Interstate Ban on Raw Milk

Falls Church, Virginia (August 20, 2010) -  In a complex federal district court ruling, Judge Mark W. Bennett refused to grant a motion by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the agency by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) and eight other named plaintiffs.  The lawsuit argues that federal regulations (21 CFR 1240.61 and 21 CFR 131.10) prohibiting raw milk for human consumption in interstate commerce are unconstitutional as applied to FTCLDF’s members and the other plaintiffs named in the suit.
In his August 18 decision, Judge Bennett denied part of FDA’s motion to dismiss while reserving judgment on the remainder.  As part of his ruling, the judge ordered proceedings in the case to be stayed sixty days to allow plaintiffs time to decide whether to file a ‘citizen petition’ with FDA.  The petition would ask FDA to clarify its interpretation of the authorizing statutes and regulations giving the agency power to ban raw milk for human consumption in interstate commerce.  If plaintiffs choose to file the citizen petition, the court would continue to delay the suit until the administrative proceedings were completed or until FDA failed to take action within the time the law requires.  If plaintiffs declined to pursue the citizen petition, Judge Bennett indicated the court would reconsider FDA’s motion to dismiss.
In Judge Bennett’s view, the main question FDA needs to answer in the petition process is “whether § 1240.61 applies to and proscribes the conduct of (1) persons who travel from one state, where it is not legal to purchase raw milk, to another state, where it is legal to purchase raw milk, legally purchase raw milk, then return to the original state where they consume the raw milk themselves or give it to their friends or family members; or (2) a principal and agent who agree that the agent will obtain raw milk out-of-state, where it is legal to do so, and to deliver it to the principal in the principal’s home state, where sales of raw milk are not permitted; or (3) a producer of raw milk who sells raw milk in an intrastate transaction to persons that he knows are from out of state.” 
All of the individually named plaintiffs in the lawsuit fit into one of the three scenarios described above.  Section 1240.61 provides in part, “No person shall cause to be delivered into interstate commerce or shall sell, or otherwise distribute, or hold for sale or other distribution after shipment in interstate commerce any milk or milk product in final package form for direct human consumption unless the product has been pasteurized….” 
Judge Bennett sees the citizen petition as a way to resolve the question of “whether the plaintiff’s conduct involves or affects ‘interstate commerce’ sufficiently to fall within the proscriptions of § 1240.61, and, still more specifically, whether the plaintiffs’ conduct constitutes ‘delivery [of raw dairy products] into interstate commerce’ or ‘distribution’ of raw dairy products after shipment in interstate commerce.”
Plaintiffs have survived the first round in the case.  They have until October 18 to determine what their next course of action will be.

The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund defends the rights and broadens the freedoms of family farms and protects consumer access to raw milk and nutrient-dense foods.

Concerned consumers can support the Fund, a U.S. based 501(c)(4) nonprofit, by joining or donating online at www.farmtoconsumer.org or by calling 703-208-FARM(3276).
For more information call 703-208-3276 or email president@farmtoconsumer.org

The press release is posted on the Fund's website at:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Feeding Fiasco

Hey mom, did you see who grabbed my spoon and thinks they are going to feed me?
Yeah, Mason, the kid that can't even remember to flush the toilet,
The one that calls me "Big Fella",
The one that thinks he is going to be a Power Ranger when he grows up,
The kid that is ONLY FOUR YEARS OLD!

I guess I will give this a try.

Not bad, I think he's got it.

Look what he's done to my face!

Mom, you seriously are going to let this continue?

Check out this ridiculous face he is making!

You are just going to stand there taking pictures the entire time?

You don't need to put the spoon in my esophagus.

Only one of us is enjoying this!

OK, now I'm just getting mad.

What do you mean say ahhh? I just need to open my mouth.


Can we be done here?

Nothing like a full belly, no matter how the job gets done!

Monday, August 23, 2010

For just a few dollars, you too can be a farmer...

I am in serious farm dreaming mode lately.  I don't know why but every once in a while my desire for some land and some animals becomes an acute ache.  But since I am firmly embedded in suburbia for now and unable to have more the 6 hens(which I have), I go down the street to Thanksgiving Point's Farm Country and talk to the cows, ride in trailers pulled by retired farmers, and feed the ridiculously cute goats.  It helps for a while but like any unnatural stimulant, I crash after-wards and want a farm more than ever.  I listen to Dolly Parton, peruse rural real estate, and plan future orchard placement and animal housing.  Oh well, I'm addicted.  Someday I'll have the real deal.


Sunday, August 22, 2010


 In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted, bend in weird ways, and they're still beautiful.

~Alice Walker

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Backyard farm kitchen

I have to laugh at modern kitchens - granite, exotic woods, stainless steel, ceramic tile, ambient lighting, and always perfectly spotless. “Honey, what are we doing for dinner this evening?” “How about going to the Olive Garden?” Why do people spend so much money, tens of thousands of dollars, on something they never use? It’s silly.

I love our kitchen built in the 70’s and never renovated - faded butcher block Formica counters, off-white commercial grade cabinets, linoleum tile, fluorescent lighting, and always a mess, especially in the summer. “Honey, what are we doing for dinner this evening?” “How about roasting one of our chickens on the rotisserie and grilling vegetables from the garden? Homemade ice cream for dessert?”
We have 26 linear feet of counter space surrounding our kitchen on four sides and usually every bit of it is occupied. Homemade meals compete for space with processing our bountiful harvests. No need for an appliance garage, the appliances are all being used – blenders, mixers, grinders, processors, juicers, peelers, toasters, pressure cookers, canners, dryers, pasta makers, ice cream makers, and our ever present rotisserie which roasts our broilers to perfection. 

If you have a spotless kitchen - I don’t care how much it cost – mess it up! Grind some wheat and make some bread. That will dust everything with flour. Peel apples, cook them down, and process them into applesauce. That will make the floor sticky. Mince garlic for pasta sauce or make dill pickles to smell up the kitchen. Dice onions until your eyes water. Cover your counters with dirty appliances, pots, pans, dishes, utensils, and enough butcher knives to make Norman Bates jealous. The sound of the running dish washer should be ever present. You should go through olive oil by the gallon and flour and sugar by the pound. Bulk ingredients can be stored in 5 gallon buckets under the counter or in the pantry. In a convenient spot right in the middle of the kitchen, you need another 5-gallon bucket for refuse – seeds, stems, leaves, rinds, peels, skins, egg shells, and table scraps. If you throw something at the bucket and miss, don’t worry. With all the other mess, no one will notice. The refuse bucket is emptied onto the compost pile outside or the chicken run, if you are lucky enough to have layers. If your kitchen doesn’t require a large yellow industrial mop bucket and wringer on wheels with a big rag mop, then you aren’t using it enough. If that is the case, take the money that you would use to buy a fancy kitchen and put it into a BMW to drive yourself to the Olive Garden. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dryer Sachets-DIY

My good friend Holly from Spotted Owl Soap is our guest writer today.

If you've ever wondered what to do with your leftover herbs at the end of the season, you're not alone. Every year I'm faced with a glut of mint, lavender, rosemary, sage and more. Some of it I freeze to use in the kitchen throughout the winter, but usually I can barely make a dent before spring comes around again. If you're faced with a surplus of flowers and herbs you hate to see shrivel with the first frost, here is an idea to enjoy summer's fragrant bounty indoors, all winter long.

Homemade laundry detergent has been gaining popularity with frugal families everywhere and homemade dryer sachets are a perfect compliment. They are also an excellent idea for anyone with perfume sensitivities or allergies. Best of all, they are reusable, natural, and easy to make.

Start with dried flowers or herbs of your choice. I like Lavender because it grows well in my area and the scent is a personal favorite. Other herbs and plant parts that work well with lavender are mint, ci
trus (dried rind or lemongrass) and rosemary as well as most common flowers. Be creative and use favorites that grow plentifully in your area. Nearly anything that works in potpourri will work in a dryer sachet.

An average sachet contains 1-2 cups of dried herbs. You can use a variety of pouches from sewn fabric cases to pre-made muslin baggies to heat sealable tea bags* - even an old sock with a knot will work as long as it is free of holes.

If you keep essential oils in the house, you may add a few drops of complimentary scent to your herb blend. Be aware that adding flammable oils to a hot dryer could be dangerous, so proceed sparingly and with ca
ution. Steer clear of synthetic fragrance oils which are often more volatile.

Seal or tie the sachet container shut and pop it in the dryer with moist clothes. The sachet can be reused many times. For lavender sachets, it helps to squeeze the bag between dryer loads. This frees up more of the fragrant oils inside the buds.

If you've already taken the "green initiative" and started venting your dryer inside your home**, you'll enjoy the added benefit of a natural air freshener.

Once dryer sachets are exhausted, they can be placed in dresser drawers for a light fragrance.

Dryer and drawer sachets make great gifts for anyone with sensitive skin, new babies or perfume allergies. Lavender is simple to grow in many climates and the sachets are very inexpensive to make - mine cost just pennies. It's not uncommon to see these sachets in stores for $12 each.

(example: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001G7PZ1U/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B0007YS8VW&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=12MHQRQH5RMWSBHEYZNC)

* Heat sealable bags and muslin bags are available from herb and spice suppliers such as San Francisco Herb (sfherb.com). For those who can't grow lavender, it can be purchased in bulk from the same company - around $10 a pound (20 sachets).


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Salmonella Outbreak in Eggs

This is another reason to get chickens so you can have your own farm fresh eggs. I find it ironic that this isn't very big news. If it had happened with a small farmer's eggs or raw milk we would have NSA, FBI, And CIA agents storming the farm and it would be all over the internet. I guess it's true that money makes the world go round. Can anyone say conspiracy?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Brussel Sprouts - bleck or yummy?

I say yummy! But, you have to know how to cook them!

When I was in high school, I was curious about those cute little cabbage looking veggies. How could everyone hate it so much when it is so cute? I asked my mom to buy some so I could try them. Being the good mom that she is, she obliged, knowing full well that I would hate them. She bought a bag of frozen brussel sprouts that I popped in the microwave, pulled out with great anticipation, took a bite, and went right to the sink to spit it out.

Fast forward a few years later. I was at a little cafe downtown with some girlfriends and  the vegetable served with my meal was none other than brussel sprouts. Being the adventurous eater that I am, and again being drawn to the cuteness of a brussel sprout, I took a bite. Holy Moly, they tasted delicious!

Fast forward again a few years, to just a few weeks ago when I received brussel sprouts in my bountiful basket. I remembered from a few years back that they DID have the potential to be good. I just needed to prepare them correctly. I did some research and now I'm going to pass this yumminess onto you!

Step 1: Peel the top layer of leaves off the sprout, and if the base of it is really large, chop it off.

Step 2: Cut those bad boys in half, and if they are really large cut them in thirds or fourths. You basically want them all to be similar in size so they cook at the same pace.

Step 3: Slice the base of the sprout as shown in the picture. I twisted my knife a little to open it up. This will allow the base which tends to be more firm than the top leafy part to cook at the same speed as the top.

Step 4: Boil those babies. I boiled them for about 5 mins.

Step 5: Saute some onions in a little butter.

 Step 6: Drizzle a little red wine vinegar in with the onions and then saute the brussel sprouts for a few minutes.

Enjoy! Brussel sprouts are now one of my very favorite veggies, and I hope they will be yours too.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Boo Hoo

The SJ House (the one on 2.5 acres with the amazing barn) got multiple offers. The bank came back and told all the offers to put in their highest and best offer. Since the house was already at the top of our price range, we had already done that. We just found out today that we got outbid, and we assumed we would.

(Thanks mom and dad for the braces!)

But that is okay....see, I'm still smiling. Although the barn was amazing, and it was a screaming deal, with 4 corrals, an amazing view of the mountains, and in a great location..... my heart wasn't really with that house. It would have gone down more like a business deal.

We had a home inspection done last week on the orphan house (aka "the dirty house")

Everything was okay, the foundation, plumbing, wiring, and radon levels were all in tip top shape. The only major issue is that there are some shingles missing on the roof in spots. So we will definately need to fix that before winter comes.
Just look at the view from the backyard! Ahhh, I feel more peaceful just looking at the picture. 

And here is one of the walls to the courtyard in the front of the house. I can just imagine having breakfast or doing homeschool there. 

Now we just keep playing the waiting game on the bank to close this deal. 
I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Wish us luck!


Tree Talk

As Marisa and I anticipate getting a new bigger property we have started to plan what we want to grow. We want a lot of what we had on our smaller backyard farm. A vegetable garden, strawberries, raspberries, chickens, and medicinal herbs. We just want more variety and bigger plots of these things. We also look forward to delving into new areas of farming that we have never tried. We are excited to have bees, goats, rabbits, and fruit trees.
(image is of Maya and her best friend swinging on a dwarf tree, other dwarf trees are in the background, I believe they are Red Haven Peach Trees)

We have never had fruit trees and we are starting to do some research into what kind of trees we want to get. We have learned a lot of interesting things but we are still novices. Here are a few things that I found interesting.

Did you know that apples, pears, quinces, cherries, peaches nectarines, apricots, plums, damsons, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and the rose all belong to the same family? They are all part of the plant family Rosaceae. Don't ask me how to pronounce this. They are divided into sub groups that include those that have stone fruits, like cherries, and plums, those that have berries like raspberries and strawberries; and pomes which include apples and pears.

Did you know that if you plan it right you can have the same types of trees that bear fruit at different times of the year. For example, there are some apples that bear fruit in the late spring and other apples bear fruit in the fall.

Did you know that most varieties of fruit will not breed true from seed. Instead, cuttings from a fruit bearing tree (called the scion) are usually grafted onto a rootstock. The rootstock is a different tissue type than the scion, and the root and the branches grow together but remain biologically different.

Did you know that some fruit bearing trees are full size, but you can also grow dwarf or semi dwarf trees? The dwarf trees are smaller and take up less space on a smaller property. You can grow many varieties of dwarf trees only 6 feet apart from each other. Marisa and I think we might want to raise a small orchard of dwarf trees.

Do any of you have experience growing fruit trees? What advice would you give us as we start the process of planning what types of trees to get for our property. We probably won't start until next spring but it's never too early to begin learning about it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Someday Eyes

Gardening has taught me appreciation despite flaws. Gardening has taught me to look at an expanse of land for what it can become, to see future flowers where now are just weeds and hard-packed dirt.

Gardening requires my "someday" eyes.

The children I raise need the same approach. One recent day I was particularly hurt that my teenager exploded in anger when his sister's sudden sickness prevented our trip to the amusement park. I was so upset with him. Where was his compassion?

Where, too, was mine?

I sought a quiet moment to reconcile my negative feelings. I came to understand my son's disappointment and his limited tools to express and control it. Even greater, a picture formed in the upper right corner of my mind. I saw him as a man, leaning beside his own daughter in the bathroom and stroking her hair out of the way.  Blond, I think.


I saw my son for all the potential within him, and my heart swelled anew with the charge to get him there.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Tomato Tip

Last year Michael and I planted 16 tomato plants! Our house was overflowing with tomatoes and I LOVED IT. This year because we moved into the apartment and I was lazy, I never planted any tomatoes. I should have planned ahead and planted in pots. I really regretted this later, but was resigned to the fact that I would be buying all our tomatoes from the farmers market and grocery store this summer. To my surprise, our good friends Dave and Janis came to our rescue with THREE tomatoes plants! I was ecstatic. Each morning I really enjoy going out on the balcony,  watering my plants, and saying hello to my cute little green tomatoes.
This little guy keeps jumping up to our two story balcony and likes to hang out in my plants. He jumps at me almost every day, and scares me to death. Do you think he is going to injure my plants?
And now for the tomato tip:
With 16 tomato plants, we were constantly eating tomatoes. But, we always had enough left over that they would go bad, but not enough to really do something with like make tomato sauce or salsa. 

If you have that same problem, here is the solution! 
Simply take the excess tomatoes and freeze them! Here are the steps you will need to take:
Step 1: place them in boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen up the skin.
Step 2: take them out and put them in an ice bath, to stop the cooking process.
Step 3: The skins should just slide off, so slip off those skins.
Step 4: Chop, dice, cut, puree or whatever your plans are for the tomatoes.
Step 5: Place them in a freezer bag making sure you get out as much air as possible.
Step 6: Freeze

UPDATE: Maybelline, a faithful backyard farming reader, left a comment saying that you don't need to blanch and peel the tomatoes before freezing (even better, right?) Just run them under warm water and the skins should peel right off.

Keep accumulating and freezing tomatoes until you have enough to make your favorite salsa, tomato sauce, tomato paste, or any other recipe you need a lot of tomatoes for. You may want to write on the freezer bag how many cups of tomatoes are in there. It will make it easy to know when you have reached your goal.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bag Lady

 Aren't these Recycled Grocery totes adorable? Click here for the tutorial. 

And check out these fantastic gift bags made from newspaper. Click here for the tutorial.

Even Martha has gotten into the reusable bag trend. Check out her tutorial here...it's a good thing.