Friday, June 29, 2007

One Local Summer - Week 1

I've decided to sign up for One Local Summer sponsored by Liz at Pocket Farm Each week for the next 10 weeks, I need to make 1 dinner from local ingredients. Tonight was our first local dinner.

The dinner consisted of:

New York Strip, grass-fed, pastured beef from Rumbleway Farm - 25 miles

Asparagus and Royal Purple Beans sauted in butter and garlic

Asparagus - local farmstand - 10 miles

Beans - my garden - 0 miles

Garlic - Newark Natural Foods - 10 miles to store, not sure where garlic is from but the sign said local

Butter - not local

Sweet Potato Bread made by myself

Sweet potatoes - Newark Natural Foods, same as above

White Bread Flour - Daisy Flour, McGeary Organics, milled in Lancaster PA, wheat grown all over PA and surrounding states, I bought the flour at Rumbleway Farm, but it is about 60 miles to Lancaster

Butter - not local

Yeast - not local

My next major project is to find local butter and cheese. I did find local raw milk today, but I've never had raw milk so I'm not sure if I'm going to get it. The milk we drink now is grass-fed in Lancaster, PA.


Maybe I'm just in a mood today, but this iPhone thing is really pissing me off! People have waited in line for over 24 hours, here in the rain, to pay over $500 for a studid phone. These are the same people who will say that organic food is too expensive and any environmentally friendly products cost too much. I'm just so dismayed by the priorities of the average American! The mayor of Philly has been in line since 4 am and the phones don't go on sale until 6 tonight. What type of message is that sending to the people of Philly? They showed 13 year old boys in line, where did they get the money for this thing? It is simply ridiculous in my opinion.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

USDA comment period

The USDA has extended the comment period on allowing 38 new inorganic ingredients in foods labeled organic. These ingredients include intestinal casing from conventional raised animals to be used in "organic" sausage, and conventionally grown hops in "organic" beer. I feel this is a real attack on what organic means.

To read more about it:

There is a form letter you can send on this page or you can send your own comments from this page: the docket ID is: AMS-TM-07-0062

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Butterfly garden

Here is what my butterfly garden looks like right now. The yarrow, butterfly weed, coneflower, bee balm and monarda are blooming right now. The sage is already done blooming. The Joe Pye Weed, goldenrod, milkweed, and sunflowers haven't bloomed yet. I saw a few gold finches fly in yesterday to enjoy the seeds of something. It is swarming with bees and I've seen many butterflies so far. UPDATE: I saw a hummingbird eating from the bee balm this evening!

Coneflower close up.
Monarda close up.

Butterfly weed Yarrow, it has purple and white flowers.

Bee balm

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Solar cooker

Logan and I finally finished making our solar cooker. It is a box cooker from the book Cooking With Sunshine. It was pretty easy to make, it is basically 1 box inside another box with crumbled newspaper as insulation. We painted the outer box black and covered the inner box with foil. Logan had a lot of fun painting the glue onto the box, smoothing the foil down, and then painting the outer box black.

We cooked for the first time in it yesterday. Here is the completed cooker with the pot in it. We made white rice for our first attempt since it is easy and cooks relatively quickly.

We left the pot outside for 4 hours and viola, rice! It tasted great and was so much fun. I highly recommend the book Cooking With Sunshine. It has easy to follow directions and a ton of great looking recipes. I look forward to playing with this more as the summer goes on.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Today's garden update

I hope I'm not boring everyone with these garden updates but I figured I could use this as my garden journal to keep track of what grows well, when I harvest etc.

Here are my potato plants. I can't believe how big they have gotten!

The potato plants are starting to bloom! They do have a pretty flower. I can't wait until it is covered in flowers.

Our first cucumber that is ready to harvest (I think). I don't remember cucumbers being prickly, it is just the strain I'm growing or do the prickers go away when it is ready to harvest?

The mini-pumpkins are blooming. I even see a little baby pumpkin starting to grow.
My 1 sweet potato slip is doing great! The others didn't make it so this is all I've got.

My brocolli is starting to look like brocolli. 1 head won't go far but it was an experiment.

My Cherokee Purple tomatoes are getting pretty big. Now I just have to wait for them to get ripe.

I've got other plants going too. The Amish Paste tomatoes also have tomatoes on them that are waiting to get ripe. I've been harvesting and using my herbs as we go. The strawberries are getting ripe and Mark is enjoying eating them right off the plant. The hot pepper plants are blooming so we should be getting peppers before too long. I'm starting to see the shoulders of the onion bulbs come up through the dirt, which is just cool. I'm having to water the tomatoes twice a day now, I'm so glad I have a rain barrel full of rain!

I harvested my first batch of purple beans and they were delicious. I didn't get a picture but will be harvesting more tonight or tomorrow so I will try to get a picture of those.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Sweet Potato Bread

I've been reading posts at A Year In Bread and Beth posted a recipe for potato bread. We love potato bread here but we didn't have any potatoes. We did have some sweet potatoes that were getting close to going bad so I decided to use them instead. We also didn't have any bread flour so I used unbleached white flour instead. I also halfed the recipe since I only own 1 bread pan right now.

This bread was incredible! It was by far the best bread I've made and the loaf was gone that night. We've never eaten a whole loaf of bread in 1 night! It was sweet and moist, just perfect. I may try it with some whole wheat flour next time, or I may not mess with it and just leave it as it is. I would highly recommend making this bread. And it was one of the easier one's I've made.

Sweet Potato Bread (The recipe as I ended up doing it, you can find the original recipe at A Year in Bread)

water - 1 cup
Unbleached white flour - 2 3/4 cup
Instant Yeast - 1 tsp
mashed sweet potatoes - 3/4 cup
softened butter - 1 tablespoons
Unbleached white flour - 1/2 cup
salt 1/2 TBS

I peeled and boiled the sweet potatoes until they were falling apart and then I mashed them with a fork. My cup of water came from the pot I boiled the sweet potatoes in.

In mixing bowl, combine water, potatoes, yeast and 2 3/4 cups flour and mix until well combined. Add the butter and mix until it is integrated into dough. The dough will still be very soft. Cover and let rest on the counter for 20 minutes.

Add the salt to the dough and spread the 1/2 cup flour on the counter and knead the dough for 4-5 minutes, adding more flour if needed. Roll the dough in flour, put it in a clean bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk (about an hour).Turn the dough out on a lightly floured counter and shape the loaf. Grease the loaf pan. Put the shaped loaf in the pan and let rise until doubled in bulk (about an hour).Preheat oven to 375°f . Bake bread for 35 minutes or until golden brown (~195°f). Turn out of pan onto cooling rack for at least an hour.

Both of my rises took less than an hour (about 35 minutes) but it was 85 in the house. We also didn't let the bread cool an hour before eating. We couldn't wait that long.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

What I liked most about Low Impact Week

Crunchy Chicken asked us what we liked most about Low Impact Week and here is my answer:

I have 2 things I liked the most about Low Impact Week and really can’t pick just one. The first thing I liked the most was feeling like I belong to a community of people concerned about reducing their impact. I live in an upper-middle class suburban neighborhood surrrounded by other upper-middle class surburban neighborhoods. No one here is concerned with the environment or their impact. They are all concerned with who has the biggest house or the newest car or the trendiest clothes. My husband is one of the few people in this neighborhood that mows his own grass, most have those services that spray all sorts of chemicals in addition to doing the mowing. I’m the only one in the neighborhood with a vegetable garden, the neighbors all think I’m crazy. Because this is what I’m surrounded by everyday, I’ve been very depressed about the future. But being part of this community this last week has made me feel much more hopeful. I’ve realized there are people who care and are trying to reduce their impact. Reading what everyone did this week has been very inspirational.

The second thing I liked the most was having the chance to change my thought patterns. I think so much of life is done on auto-pilot, it makes change hard. Plastic bags are a good example for me, about a month ago I bought some reusable bags and have kept them in my car. Sometimes I remembered to bring them in and sometimes I didn’t. Most of the time when I forgot I realized I had forgotten them and asked for no bag. But a few times, I received my plastic bag, went home, and didn’t even realize I’d been handed a plastic bag until I was home unpacking it. It is such a habit to be handed those plastic bags that even when I didn’t want them I sometimes didn’t even notice I had one in my hand. Low Impact Week put all these issues into the front of my mind. I spent the week really thinking about everyone of my actions and the impact of that action as well as ways to reduce that impact. It is now habit to think about these things and I’m living a much more aware life. No more plastic bags will end up in my hands without me noticing. I was even able to kick my diet soda habit by keeping thoughts of my impact front in my mind!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Low Impact Week summary

With Low Impact Week ending today I thought I'd update what I did and didn't do this week. So here is my original list of what I planned on doing and whether I did them or not.

1. Reduce energy consumption -

for our southern friends, set the A/C to above 90 - We didn't use A/C all week even though it was warm some days. We got lucky that the last 4 days have been very pleasant. Today is supposed to get up to 95 so the A/C may come on but we've turned it up 3 degrees from where we had it set last year.

use only cold water in your washing machine - I did this

line dry your clothes instead of using the dryer* - I got a drying rack since we aren't allowed to have clothes lines in this neighborhood (Have I mentioned I really want to move?) and I dried a few loads of laundry out on the deck. The only problem I noticed is the clothes are very wrinkly, any ideas on this?

2. Reduce water usage -

save the water in a bucket that is discharged while warming up the shower and use it to water plants or for other things* - I did this all this week and really enjoyed it. I'll definitely be continuing this one.

3. Change your food habits -

try to buy organic and/or locally grown food - I found a few more farm markets in the area that have organic veggies and fruits, I also found a very close source of free range eggs and chicken. The woman unschooled her son until he graduated so I'm very excited to be supporting her

minimize pre-packaged foods and make more of your own from scratch - I made bread for our sandwiches this week and biscuits for breakfast Sunday, we did eat out more this week than usual because my dad was visiting this weekend and we were busy with him

use cloth bags at the grocery store instead of getting paper or plastic* - I did start doing this a few weeks ago but was often forgetting my bags, this week I remembered to bring them everywhere, not just the grocery store. It seems to confuse them at the drug store. If I forget my bags I'm just not using a bag at all even if it means some juggling

4. Reduce your dependence on paper products -

print out only what is necessary - I didn't print anything this week

try out a a 100% recycled TP and tissue brand - I've replaced all the toilet paper with a recycled brand, it isn't nearly as soft but we will adjust

This wasn't on the original list but I started using hankies instead of Kleenex

6. Reduce Single Occupancy Vehicle usage - This is the area I didn't do so well in. My dad was visiting this weekend and we drove to Dover to go to the Nascar race (he's always wanted to go to one), then we drove around trying to help him find some stuff he needed for a hiking trip he is going on. Then my husband's car needed work which meant 2 more trips to Dover (about 40 miles each way) I actually did way more driving this week than normal. However, I will keep reducing my driving as a primary goal. On the upside, I drive a hybrid and get 45+mpg so it could be a lot worse.

*7. Do something that lasts more than a week -

replace one bulb per day with a Compact Fluorescent light bulb - did

take your name off of junk mail and mailing lists for catalogs you don't want - didn't get around to yet

While I already did most of the suggestions, I feel good about what I added on this week and will keep it all up. I'm finding that really thinking about the impact of my actions is becoming second nature and enjoyable.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

How does my garden grow?

Here is an update of my garden. A bunch of rain over the last 2 days caused everything to take off!

My purple beans are covered with flowers and growing like crazy.

My sweet potato slip is actually growing! I've got a few more that are almost ready to plant, so maybe I'll get some sweet potatoes after all.

Pumpkins. They are starting to get buds.

My blue potatoes are insane! I need to hill them up again tomorrow.
My black russian tomatoes are getting bigger. I also have some tomatoes on the Amish paste tomotoes that are starting to grow. My purple tomatoes are lagging behind, no flowers yet even.

Carrots. Boy do these things grow fast!

My onions. I'm so excited by these! I'm starting to see the onions peeking up through the top of the soil.

My 1 cucumber plant because Logan wants to make pickles even though none of us like them. It is getting beautiful yellow flowers.

I'm so impressed by how well everything is growing. I know my harvest will be small since I didn't plant much but I'm gaining confidence and experience for next year.