Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

Frantically Cleaning up! July 21, 2013

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Events,Garden Fresh,Home Made — realfoodmama @ 3:16 pm
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So….next weekend (July 29th to be exact) is the local garden tour here in Santa Fe. Home Grown New Mexico, in cooperation with Edible Santa Fe, will be hosting this tour as an opportunity for local gardeners and enthusiasts to view a variety of different set ups here in the drought stricken southwest. Luckily for all attendees, my wreck of a yard is on the tour this year! Yahoo!

Unfortunately, my back yard has a tendency to dissolve into chaos without really trying, so this weekend has been designated “clean up weekend” with the expectation that it will actually continue through Friday and become a clean up WEEK. Pretty sure the baby daddy has already made three trips to the dump…

In all honesty, though, the “clean up” is really more of a beatifying than it is an actual cleaning. Things like making sure the weeds are below ankle level and ensuring that the fly population down by the goat pen is manageable – or at least well dressed. In addition to cleaning up and organizing we are also going to be installing a lovely piece of art work that has been relegated to the basement of a family member for the better part of two decades. Made years ago by the woman who I consider my second mother, the piece is a gorgeous “map”, made from slate and hand painted with poetry. It was decided that the piece would be placed in the orchard, a part of the yard that gets little foot traffic, and would provide a nice little meditative place to sit and enjoy the sounds of our urban farm. I fully anticipate actually using it even, long after the hordes of Santa Feans have left. The installation will not occur until Wednesday of this week, but I will endeavor to put up pictures of it as soon as we have it down.

And while I am nervous about potentially hundreds (OMG HUNDREDS?!) of people traipsing through my yard and eliciting curious glances from the goats, I am feeling quite privileged to be on the tour this year so I can share my version of self sufficiency with the public at large. Hopefully those of you who are local can swing by! Until then, Happy Eating!

 

Time to get pollinating? June 26, 2013

Filed under: Food Activism,Home Economics,Politics — realfoodmama @ 9:57 am
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beekeepingAs you readers may or may not know, last week was national pollinators week. Unfortunately, the week was kickstarted by a horribly mass murder – namely, the loss of 50,000 bumble bees and assorted other pollinators. An Oregon Target parking lot was littered with corpses after thoughtless landscapers sprayed trees in bloom with toxic pesticides. This is a pretty serious blow to an already struggling group of flying insects.

As a gardener and someone who is concerned about her own food security, I am deeply troubled by the apparent disregard for the lives of these tiny foodies. I experienced low yields of tomatoes and squash last year as a result of, I think, diminished pollinator populations, and already this year I have watched my tomato plants flower only to see that several days later those same flowers have died and fallen with no fruit. It’s pretty terrifying, to be honest. All this work going into growing food plants only to have nothing happen because there are no bees.

Frankly, the obvious solution seems to be bee-keeping. I have an orchard and three gardens. I have drought tolerant flowering plants in my front yard. I already have livestock in the form of goats and chickens. Bee-keeping seems like the logical next step in my journey towards food security. The only problem is that I am “kinda” afraid of bees. With the stinging and the swarming and the flying into my face…

BUT, if we’re being completely honest here, I was also kind of afraid of chickens. With the flapping and the pecking and the crazy dinosaur eyes. I totally conquered that fear, so bees should be easy, right!? They’re so much smaller than chickens after all. And you get honey! Eventually…in theory.

In either case, I have some bee keeper friends who I will speak to about it and I am really thinking of just diving right in. Food security is reliant on our pollinators and small hives with access to organic and non-toxic food sources (such as those found in my garden!) are the best way, in my humble opinion, to stabilize the bee population. The first step in my journey I think will be to read up on beekeeping techniques and philosophies. I will share any reviews about books and how-to guides that I come across. In the meantime, Happy Eating!

 

Weening the kids June 24, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — realfoodmama @ 3:24 pm

The time has come, once again, to ween my goat kids before selling them. There really is nothing quite like the horrible screaming to make me realize how quiet my goats usually are. As the owner of an urban farm I am always very aware of the proximity of my neighbors and do what I can to minimize any loud interruptions. Unfortunately there really isn’t much to be done when weening the vocal toddlers!

This year I bred my lovely Snubian girl, Amelia. Her mom is a full blooded Nubian goat (I call her my Papered Princess) and her papa is one of the many handsome bucks down at South Mountain Dairy, a local goat milk dairy near Albuquerque. Amelia was blessed with airplane ears and is absolutely adorable as a result. See, Nubian goats have pendulous ears that hang down, whereas the Sable Saanen goats, like nearly all the other breeds, have upright ears. The combination of a Nubian dam and a S.Saanen sire resulted in ears that stick straight out, like the wings of an airplane!

I’ve been antsy to have my goat milk supply back, since we’ve been forced to drink organic cow milk now since the beginning of the year. So while I appreciate that the kids may be driving my neighbors bananas, I’m more than willing to make the sacrifice in order to have my raw milk back. I miss the flavor and amazingly I also really feel a difference in my energy level. I realize that goat milk has higher B vitamin concentrations than cow, but I’m always amazed by what a difference it makes in how I feel.

In the past it has always been difficult to find buyers for my kids, and I hate the idea of them going to someone with no experience with goats, or who would be using them for rodeo work, so I struggle with offloading them. If I had 10 acres of pasture I’d just keep them until I was overrun, but given the size of my yard, that really isn’t possible. Luckily this year I have found them the absolute perfect spot. A local college is using goats to manage their landscaping and I was able to get in touch with the man in charge of the project. He will be taking the kids in about a week, once they are fully weened, and they will go on to live only a few blocks away with two other goats where they will be able to roam relatively freely and graze on a variety of plants while maintaining the beautiful campus. It sounds to me like the perfect place and I am so pleased to be able to help out this new project! I love the idea of using goats as landscape labor and I imagine they are pretty happy about it as well.

In either case, I still have to put up with about another week of loud noises until the kids are fully weened and ready to go. Let’s just hope the neighbors are able to tolerate it as well as I!

 

Spring 2012 February 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — realfoodmama @ 9:27 am

I have been sadly neglecting this blog for some time now, and keep intending to come back to it but life has gotten very busy for me here at the urban farm. This morning, however, I have some quiet time and a few thoughts rolling around inside my head so I decided to post an update!

First, my two girls (Eek and Eve, the dairy herd) are both pregnant and due to kid in about a month. It is very exciting and requires a bit of preparation. Mucking the pen, making sure the girls are healthy and getting enough to eat, and building a separate birthing pen are all on my list of things to do. They both seem happy, although Eve reminds me very much of myself in the third trimester…she radiates an attitude of “get these things out of me!” Lots of groaning and waddling!

The chickens are doing well in the cold, and are enjoying their new coop immensely. We had a fully insulated coop build before the winter snows came and they seem much happier. They are now right up next to the goat pen and have free reign of that area. They are no longer allowed in the main yard due primarily to the havock they wrecked on our gardens this year. Sadly, we have lost one of them to an unknown illness, but the other nine are happy and healthy and we are still drowning in eggs!

Our fruit trees suffered a bit this last season, the combination of the extreme cold and the dry summer was very hard on them and I have a bad feeling the cherry will not recover and will have to be removed. One of the apples was completely devastated and has already been taken out. I am hoping to buy some local heirloom variety trees to replace them this spring, but there is still work that needs to be done in the orchard before then. Primarily, we are looking into cover crops and the possibility of building a wall in order to help the micro-climate out. We will see what happens when the weather turns!

Due to some poor yields last year with a few plants we have really simplified our garden plans for this year. We are going to stop trying to grow potatoes and some of the root veggies (carrots and beets seem to do very poorly in our gardens), and we will focus on more native plants. Tomatoes, flint corn (for cornmeal), beans, squash if we can manage to avoid the vine borers, maybe some melons depending on what we can find seed for, and some chiles. We are hoping that if we move to just a few crops we will get more of everything.

Aside from that, all is well here on the urban farm. I am hopeful that baby goat pictures will be coming soon! The girls are both due around the 20th of March so hopefully I can get some photos shortly thereafter. Happy Spring to all of you!

– RFM

 

So Inspiring! August 27, 2011

Filed under: Events,Food Activism,Uncategorized — realfoodmama @ 10:04 am
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Last night I had the opportunity to listen to Joel Salatin, owner of Polyface farm and author of several books including one titled “Everything I want to do is Illegal”. He has been a long time proponent of organic, sustainable, locally grown food and is an icon of the Real Food movement. I was really excited to hear him speak and he did not disappoint. The lecture he gave last evening was focused on local food sheds and the things necessary in order to have a successful and sustainable local food system.

The things he mentioned were relatively straightforward – farmers, obviously, and then distributors, processors and consumers. He spoke of the need for local processing plants and how the lack of local butchers and canners has a huge impact on the ability of local, small farms to get their product from farm to table. The same problem arises with transporting the product. Rather than having each farmer drive in their own vehicle to the farmer’s market, he suggested a cooperative transport system.

What was so inspiring about this was that here in Santa Fe we actually have some of that infrastructure already. We have something called Santa Fe Farm to Restaurant Delivers, where a truck goes to the farms, picks up the produce and then delivers it to the restaurants here that participate in the Farm to Restaurant project. All of this is made possible by the Santa Fe Alliance. It is so wonderful to live in a place that is working to move towards a more sustainable local food system.

I was able to walk away from the lecture last night feeling not only inspired, but also hopeful and confident that the local food movement will be successful. I only hope that I can take my small backyard farm and turn it into a sustainable and healthy place to raise my animals and our food. And while not everyone can raise their own food, everyone can support local farmers and their local food shed. So Happy Eating!

 

Red Chili Brownies July 29, 2011

Filed under: Baking,Events,Home Made,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 6:10 pm
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I am currently in the depths of catering hell. Well, not quite, but I can pretend in the hopes of getting sympathy right? Suffice it to say that while I am actually making a bunch of food for an event, it is generally going smoothly so the h-double-hockey-sticks is a bit of an exaggeration. I have successfully finished four deserts and am currently taking a short break from prep work for tomorrow’s breakfast. I figured what better time than now to share with you, my readers, the most excellent creation I conjured forth – Red Chili Brownies.

Now, I realize that this is not an entirely unique creation. In fact, chocolate and spice seems to be the thing these days, but I am proud of myself for the original recipe nonetheless and am hoping that some of you might enjoy nibbling on a few of these while imaging yourself in the Land of Enchantment.

For those of you familiar with the local fare, Red Chili is a staple in northern New Mexican food. Everyone seems to have an opinion about how to prepare it and while I do not purport to be an expert, I certainly have my own preferences. I tend to buy red chili powder, rather than pods, and use it as a seasoning for sauces and other savory dishes. This was my first foray into spicey-sweet.

I wish my camera was working because these things are beautiful. Basically I started with pan of brownies, which I then cut into circles with a biscuit cutter and topped with a thick bittersweet ganache and a dash of red chili powder. They are bite sized pieces of marvelosity. Which I realize isn’t a word but it certainly describes these little morsels!

Red Chili Brownie

10 TBSP organic unsalted butter
6 oz unsweetened chocolate of your choice
1 3/4 c organic cane sugar
4 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 TBSP vanilla
1 c flour
1 – 2 TBSP red chili powder from New Mexico red chili (if available)*
1 tsp cinnamon

*Depending on how hot you like it! I use about 1 TBSP because I am a whimp!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 9×13 baking dish.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler. Once melted, remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Whisk the flour, red chili and cinnamon together in a bowl and set aside. While waiting for the chocolate to cool, beat the eggs and salt until light and foamy. Add the sugar and beat until mixed. Slowly add the cooled chocolate to the egg mixture, stirring while you do so in order to incorporate the chocolate fully. Fold the flour and chili mixture into the batter until just combined. Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake until just set, so that a toothpick stuck in the center comes out somewhat cakey, about 18 minutes.

For the ganache:

Heat 1 c heavy cream over a low heat until it just starts to simmer at the edges and begins to form a skin. Pour an 8 oz bag of bittersweet chocolate chips into a heat proof bowl and then pour the hot cream over them, stirring until the mixture is smooth and uniform. Spread over the cooled brownies and sprinkle lightly with red chili powder.

Happy Eating! (and lets hope I can my camera up and running so I can have pics of these!)

 

Drought July 23, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — realfoodmama @ 8:59 am

Drought!

This year has been particularly difficult from a gardening standpoint here in fair Santa Fe, NM. While we do technically live in the desert and are used to dryness and all the things associated with it (dust, giant poisonous insects, bad skin…) we are also used to a monsoon season. Sadly this year it just hasn’t kicked in. In the past, our monsoons typically start up in early July, sometimes earlier, and give us a break from the heat in a form of nice, regular afternoon thunderstorms. Not so much this year. We have had three rains so far, and while the clouds start and try to build up every afternoon, they tend to disperse without dropping any of the wet stuff on us.

As a result our food plants are very stressed. The orchard is a mess. Our trees, which suffered some severe cold this winter (think 20 below) are now suffering from severe drought combined with extreme sun. While we can water them, we really can’t give them shade. Suffice it to say we only have one bearing fruit at the moment (a nice little plum that is hidden and shaded by the location of our RV) and the others look sickly. Our cherry tree doesn’t even really have leaves anymore.

We lost both of our red raspberries and while the black one is doing okay it isn’t happy. Our tomatoes, which I started from seed, suffered from a late frost and only about four survived so we bought replacements for them. And while our salad garden did great, our corn is pathetic, our squash still has borers and our carrots and beets never came up.

This has been a very hard year for gardening here in the high desert and it makes me realize how much work needs to be done in this climate to feed oneselves. Our chickens are doing well, although they started molting with the heat, and our goats are dusty but content so at least our milk and egg production is stable.

Suffice it to say one of the reasons I haven’t written here in some time is simply because I haven’t had anything from our garden to write about! It has been a hard year and I am hoping that the monsoons will come finally (the forecast has been for a higher chance of rain this week) and that our plants will start producing some delicious foods. We do have tiny zucchini’s, and some green tomatoes so I am hopeful we will be able to have a few harvests before too long.

In the mean time, I will continue to hope for rain and look toward the skies.

Happy Eating!

 

 
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