Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

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!

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The goat lady – my new party trick. February 28, 2011

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Politics — realfoodmama @ 12:39 pm
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Got goat?

There are days when I am pretty sure I don’t get out enough, but this weekend I was able to sneak away from my maternal and farm related responsibilities and attend the 30th birthday party of a close friend of mine. I love her parties because there is always great food and interesting conversation, however I seem to be the recently elected expert on all things goat. In fact, at the most recent event the host literally dragged me over to a complete stranger and announced that I “had goats too, you two should talk.”

I don’t really mind talking about my livestock, and given that many of the folks at these parties are hardened foodies who are highly concerned about food politics, local sourcing and re-connecting with our food it seems only natural that they would want to know more about my goats and how it is that I am able to have the animals in the city limits. The really great thing is that there were some other folks at the party who also have goats and we were able to discuss the upcoming kidding season and whether or not my goat is actually pregnant – which I am not sure she is, honestly…but that is another post.

The wonderful thing is that when I am with the food community here I feel as though they are receptive to information about my urban homestead. They want to know what my goats are like and they think it is awesome that I have chickens too. I suppose if I had an audience that was slightly less receptive I might be less comfortable talking about it. I mean, no one wants to be known as “that crazy goat lady”. In fact one of the things I like so much about Santa Fe is that it is incredibly receptive to backyard livestock and in fact, sees it as the norm. Perhaps it is the Hispanic population component or the fact that Santa Fe is a 400 year old settlement, or maybe it really is just due to the fact that it is the City Different. In either case, I am not complaining. I love that I can have my animals without worrying about the legalities or getting permits or having neighbors think I am crazy. I am hopeful that with the urban homesteading movement and with the desire to get back to real food that more places around the country will adopt the same lenient policies as Santa Fe.

Until then, however, I think it is important to work with our neighbors and legislators in order to make them understand that backyard chickens really are the best thing for everyone *wink wink*.

Happy Eating!

 

The Ingredients in Milk February 23, 2011

Filed under: Politics,Raw Goat Milk — realfoodmama @ 4:16 pm
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Fish Milk?

Since my goat has been dried off and I am currently waiting for my hopefully (crosses fingers, arms and legs) pregnant doe to kid in April I am without a milk supply at the moment. If it were up to me we would simply go without, but sadly it isn’t. As a result we have had to buy milk recently. While I would prefer to buy goat milk from my local goat dairy, they are all in the same situation I am and have no milk at the moment as they are also expecting kids and their girls are either pregnant or dry. It is that time of year.

This has, of course, led me to buy organic cow milk from my local co-op. I don’t really drink it except for in my tea, but my kiddo asks for a glass now and then and his father consumes quite a bit of it. When I went to buy the first half gallon I noticed something new in the milk isle. Granted I haven’t paid that much attention for nearly a year since the last time I found myself without a goat milk supply, so maybe this isn’t news to everyone reading. Apparently you can buy milk that has added omega-3’s and DHA in it. Upon reading the back I learned that in the case of the additional omega-3’s and DHA in the Organic Valley version, fish oil has been added to supply them. I beg your pardon?

I mean really, who wants milk with fish in it?

Then, this morning, I was made aware of something even more disturbing that fish-milk. According to the Cornucopia Institute, Horizon Dairy (not known for their exemplary record in following organic standards anyway) has added synthetic, non-approved DHA and Omega-3’s to their milk and are still proudly flaunting the organic label. Apparently the synthetic additives come from a processed algae source, rather than actual fish like the additives in the Organic Valley version. The problem, of course, is that the synthetic source has not been approved organic and therefor the addition of it to an organically labeled product is questionable.

In either case, whether organic fish or questionable algae bi-product, I find the addition of these nutrients to a food like milk highly questionable. Milk is a real food, even in its pasteurized form – though I personally believe raw is better. On the one hand it is somewhat inspiring to see that the recognition of the importance of nutrients like omega-3’s has made such an impact, but on the other hand I don’t understand why the food industry – the Organic food industry even – has decided it needs to mess with something that isn’t broken.

It seems to be just another attempt of the industrial food machine to modify a “product” to fit “consumer” patterns in order to make more money. And in the process they have taken a very simple food and given it an ingredient list.

Suffice it to say I am going to be very glad when my goat milk supply comes back.

Happy Eating (and drinking!)

This post has been my contribution to Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday.

 

Holiday season – Heritage Turkey! November 21, 2010

Filed under: Eating local,Farmer's Market,Politics — realfoodmama @ 6:16 pm
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Holiday Birds

Gobble Gobble!

This year I finally bit the bullet and decided to buy a locally grown heritage turkey. We ended up purchasing a 15 pound bird from the farmer’s market (for an obscene amount of money I might add) and it is now sitting in my freezer, waiting to be defrosted for the big holiday coming up this Thursday. I was very discouraged by the fact that the vendor I purchased the bird from responded quite poorly to me utilizing my food stamps to pay for said bird. My feeling is, for the cost of the thing they should have been lucky I bought one at all! Regardless, this is the only time a farmer’s market vendor has treated me like I am making their life more difficult when I use my wooden SNAP tokens to make a purchase. Hopefully the bird will be awesome and make up for it! (Although it should be noted, no further purchases will be made from this vendor in the future. I don’t need to be treated like a leper for using food stamps.)

The biggest concern with this years bird, aside from politics, is of course the best way to cook a Heritage Turkey. I have never attempted it myself and I have heard such widely contradictory theories as to the best way to go about it. Some folks swear by brining it and then roasting at high heat until it reaches temperature. I have no desire to brine a turkey for a variety of reasons. First, I don’t have a place to keep a turkey in brine for two days, unless you count the garage and frankly, that doesn’t sound very hygienic. Second, I want to try roasting it without the fool-proof guarantee of a brine.

The other option of course is to smother it in butter, which frankly sounds better than soaking it in salt anyway. In fact one of the most interesting recipes I’ve seen involves using maple butter under the skin. A version is found here at the Heritage Foods USA web site. I like this idea as I think the maple flavor would really enhance the (supposedly) richer flavor of the heritage bird. I then plan on stuffing it with apples, carrots and a few sprigs of rosemary. I am hopeful that it will turn out well, and fully intend on taking photos and posting about the results.

In addition to the turkey I also will be rendering some lard for the pie crusts and roasting and pureeing the pumpkins from our garden. For the pecan pie I am going to try a recipe using brown rice syrup instead of corn syrup and the stash of locally grown pecans I have been saving. Also on the menu is some fresh baked bread, a sausage and bread stuffing, the potatoes from our garden, and a host of veggies. Unfortunately I will not be making the green bean casserole this year due to the fact that all of the green beans we processed and froze were ruined when my three year old turned off the chest freezer….alas, we had to say goodbye to 20 lbs of green beans, several whole chickens and some frozen apples. It was quite sad.

I hope that all of you are gearing up for the holiday with as much enthusiasm as I am! I just need to figure out a way to include some goat milk and some eggs in our feast in order to make it pretty much totally home grown! Happy Eating!

 

Edible Institute, 2010! January 29, 2010

There is something inspiring about community.

This week Santa Fe was host to the inaugural Edible Institute – a gathering of food writers and activists from across the country who came together for discussions on a variety of issues. Topics included how to educate the public about SOLE food (Sustainable, Organic, Local, Ethical) without sounding preachy, specific ethical issues affecting food politics, and of course a panel discussion on the Southwestern Foodshed.

Perhaps the conversation most relevant to this blog was the panel discussion on the Southwestern Food Shed. The discussion was focused primarily on seed sovereignty and the work people have put into legislation here in the state that will protect farmer’s rights as concerns their ability to not only save their seeds, but also to be safe from biotech lawsuits in the event that GE crops cross-pollinate through no fault of the farmers.

I was fortunate enough to be able to ask a question of the panel about the GE chile mentioned in this post. Unfortunately I failed to get an answer as to whether or not the chile was in production, but I did get a long history of the chile. Apparently the research is being conduced at NMSU, located in Albuquerque, and began in 2005.

Additionally, it appears as though while originally New Mexico was breaking ground in seed sovereignty and farmer protection, this is no longer the case. A Seed Sovereignty Declaration was originally written here in New Mexico and has since been signed by not only all the major Native tribes, but also by International groups. Unfortunately the state that launched this movement is now watering down the original language thanks primarily to a million dollar donation by the biotech company in favor of continuing research on the GE chile.

Additional information on the Seed Sovereignty declaration as well as up to date information on the status of the legislation in question can be found here at the New Mexico Acequia Association web site. I highly recommend all readers in the state of New Mexico read the information contained on this site and, if inspired, contact your representative to express your concerns over GE crops, especially the chile.

And while this conversation was most relevant to me given its local flavor, the other thing of extreme interest to me was a discussion on the rights, or lack thereof, of farm workers. Particularly those workers who may be illegal immigrants and who are working for large commodity growers.

There is a lot of discussion about how disenfranchised small and medium farmers are in the current economic situation, but the rights of the workers are frequently overlooked. In fact, there have been 7 cases of farm worker mistreatment that have been successfully prosecuted under this country’s slavery laws! The most famous of which involved workers actually being chained to farm equipment.

The conversation was specifically focused on the Imokalee Tomato Workers and their struggle for rights. More information can be found on their web site here.

All in all, the experience was fabulous and I really enjoyed participating. These kinds of community events are so important – to share information, connect with others and generally feel as though the momentum of the SOLE movement is going strong.

This post has been my contribution to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays blog carnival. Check it out for more Real Food info!

 

Genetically Engineered Chile? January 19, 2010

Filed under: Eating local,Fight Back Fridays,Food Activism,Politics — realfoodmama @ 6:39 pm
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GE or not GE?My local Co-op publishes a monthly news letter that is chock full of information on local food issues. Everything from information on state legislation to updates on the successes of local products.

This month, one of the more disturbing themes was about genetically engineered crops and the lawsuits brought against individual farmers by GE giant Monsanto.The most upsetting part of this article, however, was the disclosure that the NM state legislature has been funding the development of a genetically engineered chile since 2006. New Mexico is a huge chile producer (anyone who has seen Hatch green chile in their supermarket is buying from a town named Hatch in the southern part of the state – at least in theory), and apparently this research is being done on behalf on the NM Chile Association, web site here. Why is unclear and merits more research.

The really upsetting part of this is noted in the Co-op newsletter, that being that chiles are used so extensively in the state of NM as both food and decor that the potential for contamination is mind blowing. Chile seeds everywhere on ristras and plates all over the state…

Of course, the NM GE chile no doubt does not contain the roundup readiness of Monsanto’s famous grains, and an argument could be made that the act of creating hybrids is crucial to the evolution of agriculture – domestication of wild wheat, etc. However it still makes me nervous, and rightfully so.

In either case, it has certainly inclined me to do more research on the topic. I dislike the idea of a group such as Native Seeds SEARCH going to all the trouble of saving heirloom and historical varieties of chile just to have the state of NM undermine their own agricultural heritage by actively funding a GE crop.

This post has been my contribution to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday‘s blog carnival.

 

Slow Food Membership is a deal in September! September 1, 2009

Filed under: Events,Fight Back Fridays,Food Activism,Politics — realfoodmama @ 12:36 pm
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Slow Food USA is offering a deal this month to new donors who would like to be members. Until October 1st any donation will gain you membership status. Usually requiring a $60 gift, membership in Slow Food USA connects you to your local slow food chapter, puts you on the mailing list to be notified of and receive invitations to events, and provides discounts on select events and publications.

This is a great organization and for those folks who aren’t familiar with Slow Food USA, here is a bit of an overview. Founded in Italy in 1986 in order to combat “fast food” (namely, a Mcdonald’s), Slow Food International was begun to preserve cultural cuisine, heirloom plants, local food traditions, and sustainable agriculture. The first chapter in the US was begun in New York in 2000 and since then US membership has grown to over 15,000 people.

Recently Slow Food USA has been taking on the school lunch program with their Time for Lunch campaign, aimed at raising the standard for nutrition in our public schools. This is a must read for any parent who has concerns about the quality of food choices provided to their school age children.

More information about Slow Food USA, their programs, and membership can be found at www.slowfoodusa.org.

Happy Eating!

This post has been my weekly contribution to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday blog carnival.