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!

 

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!

 

Tomato Tragedy! May 19, 2011

Our tomato plants did not fair well with the transplant from pot to garden plot the other day, and now it looks like we are expecting weather in the low thirties this evening which, I am afraid to say, may be the final blow to the already stressed plants.

I will be really disappointed if they don’t survive. We had four different heirloom varieties and I have been fantasizing about all the things I will be able to do with them come late summer. At this point it really only looks like about three of the plants will pull through, but I haven’t entirely given up hope yet. Of course, we will have to see how things are tomorrow morning after our cold snap. I fear the worse.

The most distressing part about this, of course, is the fact that I like to think that our gardens can feed us. This is probably unreasonable regardless of circumstance, but when something like this happens it really highlights how fragile the balance is. If we WERE totally dependent on the garden, we would now be down a whole crop. And while that isn’t necessarily the end of the world, it does mean that one of the best foods for canning and preserving would be completely missing from our winter cupboard. It makes me really appreciate and understand how hard it is, and how much luck goes into, being able to survive without the convenience of readily available supermarket variety food.

It is easy to forget that even our farmer’s at the local farmer’s market here struggle with that and are also subject to the whims of nature, regardless of their experience or skill at keeping their crops happy and alive. Just this year one of the local tomato growers lost almost all their plants due to a natural gas shortage which killed the heaters in their greenhouses. So please, think good thoughts tonight while the temperatures dip. I am hopeful that the plants will pull through, but if not I will have to replace them with some other varieties. I hope that your gardens are doing well in spite of the weather here!

Happy Gardening!

 

Oven-dried zucchini August 13, 2010

Filed under: Food Storage,Garden Fresh,Home Made,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 3:24 pm
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The results!

My first attempt at oven drying anything was met with pretty fair success, if I do say so myself. Although I was somewhat astounded by the end result. When you cut up two pounds of zucchini and end up with barely a cup, it is a bit of a shocker. Of course, zucchini being 95% water (or thereabouts) makes it shrivel up pretty good. According to the Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving, 20 lbs of zucchini dried makes barely two pounds of chips.

Fascinating, but somewhat anti-climactic.

Suffice it to say, the process was very straightforward. I winged it a bit, but it all seemed to work out. Using what I read from the aforementioned Ball Book and some articles on the internet, I decided to slice the zucchini into 1/4 inch slices. I then lay them on a cookie sheet and set the oven at 175 degrees, which is as low as mine will go.

I also kept the oven door open in order to facilitate the actual dehydrating process, versus cooking. The airflow provided is necessary in order to keep the moisture from recirculating back into the zucchini. If I had a convection oven this might have been an unnecessary step, but sadly I do not have a convection oven and so I simply kept the oven door open about half way.

The whole process took nearly 4 hours and I was obliged to continuously flip the zucchini rounds in order to dry them evenly. If I had a cookie sheet with a rack I probably would not have had to do this step, but again…like the convection oven issue, I didn’t. Regardless, it worked quite well. I did notice however that the pieces that I had cut too thin started to brown and I decided that they were moving too far into the “cooked” spectrum to really qualify as dried. As a result I attempted to add them to burritos for dinner that evening…which was a spectacular failure, I might add.

Regardless, the point of mentioning it was that while some sources might tell you to cut the slices as thin as 1/8 of an inch, if you are using an oven to dry your zucchini I highly suggest to cut things no thinner than 1/4 inch otherwise you may end up with burnt chips.

I will be reattempting the drying routine tomorrow as I still have four zucchini in my fridge, even though I have dried and baked copious amounts and my plants are suffering from an insect invader that is slowly killing them. I do love the abundance of summer squash!

Oven Dried Zucchini

Zucchini
cookie sheets, with racks if possible

Cut the zucchini into 1/4 inch slices, trying to cut them as evenly as possible. Place the slices on the cookie sheet or rack, spacing them relatively close together as they will shrink as the process goes on.

Place in your oven at it’s lowest setting (mine was 175 degrees) and leave the door open at least half way. If your oven door will not remain open half way on its own you may have to rig it. I would not recommend leaving it open all the way and you cannot have it closed altogether either.

Leave in the oven for 4 – 4.5 hours, turning regularly. The zucchini is done when it is no longer flexible. Let cool completely before storing.

Happy Eating!

 

Garden Update and all the work involved! August 9, 2010

Filed under: Garden Fresh — realfoodmama @ 3:00 pm
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Sad SquashSo the garden is doing fairly well at the moment with one notable exception; that is the squash. The vine borers have infiltrated pretty much all the plants. The zucchini and the pumpkins have rooted along the vines which basically means that if the main plant dies the vine will live, but I am pretty sure our days of excessive zucchini are behind us already.

As for the rest, I am hoping that the plants survive long enough to allow some of the fruit that has set to reach maturity. The constant application of BtK (a bacterial agent designed to kill caterpillars and other larvae) seems to be mitigating the damage somewhat, however in general the plants look sad, as indicated by the picture.

Aside from that however, things are doing well. The corn survived the windstorm with only one accident – the tallest was broken, but seems to still be alive so I am hoping it will germinate and produce some ears regardless of its hunched over appearance. Additionally the tomato plants, while completely out of their cages, seem to be setting fruit and doing nicely. The green beans are producing in a somewhat mind boggling quantity and every time I go out to pick beans, which is daily, I find ones hiding that are near mutant size.

All of this abundance has resulted in regular blanching and freezing of beans, and while zucchini bread has been made more than once…or even thrice…I am trying a different way of storing the zukes today. I am hoping to dry slices and then put those up for future use in soups and stews this winter. They would add great flavor to stocks and it seems like a better use for them than bread, mostly because I hate baking when it is this hot out.

Although it should be noted that since I don’t have a dehydrator, I will be drying the zucchini in the oven. However, instead of having it on at 350 degrees for an hour, it will be on at 175 degrees for an hour which I suspect will make a significant difference.

In order to counter the somewhat depressing picture of the squash above, here are some other garden pictures that are much more representative of what the majority of our harvest is beginning to look like.

The tomato forest

Tomato Forest

Corn

Potato Patch

 

Early apples and Plums August 1, 2010

Filed under: Garden Fresh,Home Economics,Home Made — realfoodmama @ 8:33 pm
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This weekend we spent a bit of time each day picking fruit off trees that would otherwise have simply fallen to the ground. We were able to get apples from the tree of a business associate and plums from the tree of a complete stranger who we were referred to by a mutual friend. As a result she is no longer a complete stranger!

Suffice it to say the fruit picking adventures of this weekend mark the beginning of canning season. That coupled with this evenings bumper crop of green beans from the garden and we are already starting to put food up for the winter. The green beans were blanched and are now freezing in the chest freezer out in our workshop.

Tomorrow I am hoping to make plum preserves and, assuming my kitchen isn’t a disaster by the end of that project, start some apple butter. I am also falling behind on my zucchini and basil processing – I need to make pesto and bake some zucchini bread. Both can be frozen if packaged properly and are a great use of our crazy garden bounty.

The monsoon rains here in Santa Fe have been dramatic this season, to say the least. We haven’t had to actually water the garden in about a week as the nightly down pour has kept everything incredibly wet – in some cases too wet especially in the goat pen. Mucking this afternoon proved…unpleasant. But that is another topic! The gardens are happy and I should really post some images of our tomato forest. The tomato plants have gotten so huge and are so bushy that I admit to being somewhat afraid of them. I can’t see the basil plants anymore, the poor things are buried under the tomato foliage!

In either case I am excited that today, the first day of a new month, we are getting a jump on our food processing. I am looking forward to more apples later in the season, some pears, and of course the rest of the bounty from our home garden! In the meantime, I should probably go make some bread…

Happy Eating!

 

Chickens, gardens and goats oh my! April 17, 2010

Filed under: Animal Husbandry,Home Economics — realfoodmama @ 5:19 pm
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Tomato seedlings - Black Krim

Things here have just been crazy. So much so in fact that I barely have time to cook, much less write about it.

In the past three weeks we have planted our salad garden, built a chicken coop, welcomed two baby goats and a dozen chickens into our household and have started a variety of seedlings. Things are all going very well with the exception of the eggplant. For some reason none of the seeds sprouted and I admit to being pretty upset about this given that eggplant seeds can take nearly two weeks to germinate and they need to be about a month along before you can transplant them outside. So if we replant the seeds this weekend, the mature plants won’t be able to go out for six weeks which is nearly a full month after the last frost date here.

I am determined, however, to grow them so even with the late start I am hopeful we will get some fruit this season.

On a brighter note, the tomato’s are doing absolutely fantastic and I am hoping another two weeks in the solarium will really get them going. In addition to tomatoes and eggplant, we also did some Ancho chili’s and will be doing tomatillos tomorrow. We will also be planting some new raspberry bushes, since we killed our last year when they got placed next to the potatoes, a grape vine (yippie!) and a couple of new trees, including a peach. We will see how that does here, as it was a gift and not purchased locally.

Our spinach, lettuce, cress, arugala and the first round of peas are all sprouted and doing very well outside, and all of the trees are flowering, although the apricot buds are already blown which is rather bizarre.

Apricot tree

The baby goats are getting enormous and are taking pretty much all the milk mom has for themselves. Any attempt to milk her at this point is met with an empty udder and much exertion on my part. Tonight is the first night they will be separated from her, however, so I am hopefully that tomorrow morning I will get a lot. We shall see…she is incredibly hard to milk.

On another goat related note, my Nubian lost a horn today while trying to prove her dominance and although she is slightly bloody she seems otherwise uninjured. For those of you readers who are not goat owners, she didn’t lose a big horn, she has what the goat world calls scurs, and these are remnants of an improper disbudding or horn removal at a young age. They tend to be less well attached than the real thing. Aside from being kind of gross, she seems unfazed by it so that is good.

As for the chickens, I think we have one rooster and eleven hens. The reason I think this is due entirely to the fact that one of them is getting a very red comb and none of the others are. I could be totally mistaken however, as I know next to nothing about chickens. However, if I am correct, not only will we be getting a huge number of eggs, but we also may have the opportunity to allow the hens to brood, resulting in chicks next spring!

That is pretty much all that is happening here at the urban farm. I am hoping that once the livestock issues settle themselves and we get back into a routine that I will be able to focus, once again, on cooking and eating. Until then however, here is a nice shot of the greenery in my solarium!

Happy Eating!

Plants