Friday, January 29, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
Walnuts are messy business. I had a backpack stuffed full of hulls that I dragged home with me weighing in at 30lbs. I ripped the hulls off the best I could and then put the rest of them into a sink of warm water. this is a bit difficult to describe but I sort of rubbed the walnuts together, rolling them over and knocking the rest of the loose junk off of them. This took enough of the hull off that they could be split open, etc.
I threw them on some cookie sheets and put them in the oven for about 45 mins at 225deg. See that glossy bit on the walnut shell in the picture? I'd say about 1/5th of the shells had spots like this. Curiosity got the better of me (it always does) and I tasted it. It was sugar! Anyone have an idea what's taking place in this nut? Any traditional or historical references to gathering sugar like this? It would take a ton of nuts to get any appreciable amount this way, but might there be a better method out there?
To all the butchers and meat cutters in the world, you can rest assured I'll never take your job away. This is due to an acute lack of talent, not for lack of trying. If anyone has a meat grinder I have about 1/4lb of meat that needs to be processed.
Our coffers have 5lbs of soybeans from collection on previous expeditions as well. I'm curious if anyone has had success hunting or foraging. Where have you been, what have you gathered, or what are you waiting for!
While cleaning out the shop of a dear friend's departed father we came upon a box of seeds. I volunteered to take them, and amongst the packets was a pack of Sutton Seeds cabbage lettuce - 'Fortune.' The packaging date on the back read 30.6.77 - better than 30 years old! The package was still sealed, and inside was a small foil pack that was sealed as well. I counted them (a bad habit I've picked up since I started planning this garden) and there were 1400 seeds. Wondering if they were good I set up a quick improvised sprouter. I took a Ziplock disposable container and cut a bit of cardboard to fit inside. I then placed the cardboard on the lid and wet it, then carefully spread 50 seeds out. Add a sunny window and three days elapsed time and...
Here we grow! The germination rate is 70% on this test batch. I'd love to share these seeds with anyone involved in the challenge. I plan to divide them into parcels of 100 seeds, let me know if you'd like some.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
The sprouts don't take long, and I love them on everything from salads to peanut butter sandwiches (seriously, they're really tasty with the peanut butter.)
Here is a simple recipe to make bread by using sprouted wheat grains:
Here is a simple recipe for making sugar free jam:
If anyone currently has a dehydrator, please let me know. I am considering buying one.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Welcome, welcome, welcome! :o)
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
"Would you allow me to plant a small vegetable garden on the roof of this building? It would be no more than a few potted plants in the area above my fourth floor bedroom. Not only would it beautify the building, but it would take advantage of unused space. Rooftop gardens can also keep the building cooler in the summer, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is an all around benefit to the building.We'll see what they say; I have the advantage of living on the top floor, so I really wouldn't be bothering anybody. The rub is we're technically not allowed up on the roof (it's in our lease) and they put the smack down after all the tenants went up there to watch fireworks last Fourth of July.
I would take great care to respect the integrity of the roof and the privacy of those living below it. Please let me know what you decide."
But there's no harm in asking. If they don't comply, I'm going to propose the idea to a museum I work with in Brooklyn. I think they would be up for it, but the site is about an hour away by subway. I'd only be able to visit once or twice a week.
Friday, January 8, 2010
The goal of TapMyTrees.com is to promote tapping maple trees by families at home. Collecting maple sap is a green, environmentally sustainable process that can be enjoyed by anyone with a healthy, mature maple tree. This site provides you with step-by-step instructions on how to tap your maple trees and turn that sap into maple syrup.
They offer online instructions for tapping trees here.
Come on, Ohioans! Make me some syrup!
#324 - Sub Arctic Maxi (Tomato)
#373Q - Pineapple (Tomato)
#32 - Red Ace (Beets)
#1G - Roma II (Bush Bean)
#18B - Provider (Bush Bean)
#267R - Jupiter (Pepper)
#258A - Super Red Pimento (Pepper)
#172 - Buttercrunch (Lettuce)
#185F - New Red Fire (Lettuce)
#P176F - Mighty Joe (Lettuce)
#289 - New Zealand (Spinach)
#286 - Melody (Spinach)
#242 - Andover (Parsnip)
#P103A - Florida 683 (Celery)
#84 - Coreless Amsterdam (Carrots)
#277R - Gigante d' Italian (Parsley)
#220 - White Lisbon (Scallions)
#170T - Tadorna (Leek)
#298E - Sunray (Squash)
#61X - BC-63 (Cabbage)
#61A - Stonehead (Cabbage)
#51K Goliath (Broccoli)
#45A - Jade Cross E (Brussel Sprouts)
#97C - Snow Crown (Cauliflower)
#284 - Mammoth Sandwich Island (Salsify)
#185M - Mild Mesclun Mix (Lettuce)
#372D - White Lady (Turnips)
#41B - Silverado (Swiss Chard)
#210V - Alpine (Onion)
#141J - Jackson Classic (Cucumber)
Don't feel like picking varieties yourself? Like this assortment? Want the same seeds as me? The quantities in these packages are way more than I'll plant - talk to me if you want a share of these seeds.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I explained the challenge, and asked him if I can wait until the spring when we've fenced in the yard, and he said yes :o)
Woo-hoo! I'll have eggs to trade! (As long as Mark doesn't come eat my chickens.) (Mark, they're still off-limits. No hunting in my yard.)
Monday, January 4, 2010
I'm not a hunter, fisher or gardener. I don't have the patience to forage around through the woods looking for my next meal.
However, this seems interesting and challenging despite my lack of survival skills. And...maybe I'll learn a thing or two.
Recently, I've gotten picky about where I shop for food and what I buy. Kathy, Todd & I brave the elements many Saturday mornings to go to the West Side Market to get the freshest local produce & meats (just Todd & I on the meats part).
This past Thanksgiving I bypassed the $0.69 lb turkey at the grocery store and decided to buy a smoked turkey from Martha's Farm in Ashland, Ohio. It was so cool to meet the farmer that raised & cared for our turkey. Amazingly, the turkey's body was proportionate! The wings were huge in comparison to the nubs that we normally get on a store bought turkey. And bonus.. it was so moist & delicious!
I love to cook and have a few home gardening cookbooks. So, why not? I'll give this a try!
Sunday, January 3, 2010
I learned about vertical gardening at my recent month-long workshop on Ecovillage Design Education at Findhorn in Northern Scotland. I have since found it in several books. We planted potatoes in the vertical garden we started, but you can plant anything that would grow in the ground in a vertical garden! Apparently carrots turn out a little wonky shaped, and I would imagine other root veggies do too, but who cares about the shape if you have yummy carrots!
rocks or something. They function to keep the whole thing stable and keep it from blowing over in the wind.
When Mother Nature wants to plant a garden, how does she do it? Rent a roto tiller from the nearest Home Depot, chop up a whole plot of land including the worms living in it? Then meticulously planting seeds, watching for the slightest sign of life rather than the intended plants to immediately eradicate them? I don't think so.
Seeds are carried on the wind, by birds, replanted from the plants themselves. A wild garden looks just that way-- wild. The "good plants" are mixed in with weeds; the plants and leaves die off in the winter and guess what?!? They don't need to be raked or pulled or removed. In nature, there is no waste. This year's plants become next year's nutritious mulch, and eventually create soil.
Permaculture (meaning "permanent agriculture" and "permanent culture") was started in the mid 1970's by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. Permaculture is based three core values: Earth Care (Earth is the source of all life and our only home; we must take care of soil, forests, and water), People Care (take care of ourselves, family, and community), and a Fair Share for all (so the limited resources of the Earth are distributed wisely; set limits on consumption). Permaculture Ethics and Design Principles are applied first on an individual level, and then spirals out to the community level where we can create sustainable societies. Permaculture can be a way of life-- everything in life is considered a garden, and what you put in is what you get out-- but for these purposes, I will describe it in terms of vegetable gardening.
Permaculture has a set of twelve basic principles:
1. Observe and Interact: by spending time with nature, we can design to co-exist sustainably (like Pete watching his yard for sunny areas)
2. Catch and Store Energy: collect resources when they are plentiful and store for when they are not (growing food in the summer, preserving for winter)
3. Obtain a Yield: ensure you are getting something back for what you're putting in (grow edible foods so your garden will provide for you)
4. Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback: encourage useful behavior and discourage inappropriate behavior through feedback loops (what works, what doesn't?)
5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services: use renewable technology wherever possible and minimize the use of non-renewables (catch rainwater to water your garden)
6. Produce No Waste: output from one system is input to the next (the "waste" from beer production can become food for your garden)
7. Design from Patterns to Details (herb gardens are often grown in spirals; gardens are designed to make maximum use of space, then details of which plants are grown where are decided upon; mimic patterns in nature where possible)
8. Integrate Rather than Segregate (companion planting; find things that work together)
9. Use Small and Slow Solutions (look for long-term solutions rather than quick fixes; focus on soil building rather than chemical fertilizer/herbicide/pesticide. A well developed garden won't need to be weeded!)
10. Use and Value Diversity (reduces vulnerability and increases resilience-- even plant several varieties of the same crops)
11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal (edges are very productive--think of the edges of a pond or forest--so maximize edges to your benefit)
12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change (the only constant is change. Learn to flow with that change and learn from it)
To learn more about these principles, visit http://www.permacultureprinciples.com/ and http://www.holmgren.com.au/ or ask me for one of the several PowerPoint presentations, PDF's, or books I have on the subject.
If you are interested in learning much more, please consider attending the Northeast Ohio Permaculture Design Course this winter! I am attending, and looking forward to it! http://www.neohiopdc.wordpress.com/
I had decided to go out late that particular afternoon, hoping to catch small game bustling around before evening set in. It was a nice quiet time, with no other hunters out in the field. It was at least nice and quiet until I decided to see how far north a certain swampy area extended. I ended up in a plowed field, then headed west to its edge and then turned south into the edge of the swamp. I crashed along through the marshy thicket until I dumped out into a field with 8' high grasses. I had no idea where I was, and the sun was 30 minutes from setting.
The entire lake area is bisected by a road with a causeway over the lake. I kept the evening sun to my right and hustled quickly through, hoping to find the road before the sun descended. I found a few new bird hunting areas and a large field that had been planted with soybeans on my way to the road. I actually didn't know what they were at first. I had taken a few sample plants that afternoon to see if I could identify them (in the hopes that some were edible.) The bean pod had obviously been planted by the DNR. The plants had all been plowed over, save a few holdouts on the periphery of the field. Sitting in the car I decided to take a chance and taste one of the raw beans. It tasted a bit like a peanut, and a bit like a green bean. I wasn't quite sure what kind of bean they were at the time but knowing that deer corn was planted in the area I figured it was a cycle crop to improve the soil.
I got back out of the car to pick a few handfuls of the plants. I spent the last 15 minutes before sunset pulling up plants from the field and stuffing them into a backpack I had with me. A quick internet search showed me that the plants I had found were soybeans. After 15 minutes of picking and 5-1/2 hours of shelling I was left with a pound and a half of soybeans.
In my 2 successive hunting trips since then I've gathered what I could again from the field - I have found another field planted with soy near the first one. I now have 2 lbs of shelled beans and 2-1/2 lbs of beans still in their shells.
I've also cooked some of them up - I cooked some plain beans (boiled in water) and also ground some up in a pepper mill to see what they would taste like. I cooked 1/4 cup of the milled soybeans in 1/2 cup water, bringing it to a boil and then letting it simmer covered for 5 minutes. The final result tasted just like grits, so I added a pinch of sugar and some butter before I devoured them.
I hope to find grapes somewhere to make grape jelly, maybe some wine and maybe wine vinegar. Maybe if I can find some seedless types I'll even put some in the dehydrator to make some raisins. Different preserving recipes require different types of vinegar. Vinegar is typically used for pickling.
I do hope to hunt/fish for protein but thusfar have been unsuccessful in past ventures. I'll have to be more successful in the future. Guess I'll have to practice more! :)
I taking a beekeeping class next month and have been going to the Greater Cleveland BeeKeeping Association meetings on and off for the past 6 months. About every other month so it's only been 3 meetings. However Bees are a great companion for the self sufficient person. Honey for sweetening. Wax for candles. Great polinators. I'll see if I can take over an established hive. Otherwise I'll have to put one in our small yard or find a larger yard/farm where they will let me set one up. Kind of a common practice but I'll have to find someone to work with.
I'm sure there's more but that's it for now. I'm sure there will be another post of random thoughts from me soon.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
After giving this project some very serious thought, I've decided to join this grand experiment.
However, my participation in the event is greatly complicated by the fact that I live in a fourth floor apartment in Queens, New York.
A little background on me: I spend much of my time writing on my blog, Four Pounds Flour, where I document my adventures in "historic gastronomy." I research, recreate and consume historic recipes. I love creating something that looks, smells, and tastes just like it did hundreds of years ago. And to me, that's the next best thing to time travel: it's a window to the past that lets you understand a little bit about another way of life. I first learned how to cook these recipes over a wood stove at my first job in high school. Later, they inspired my thesis, a restaurant reinterpreting historic cuisine for a contemporary audience. Now, I do it for the daily adventure.
Sometimes, I spend a week immersing myself entirely in the foods of a certain time period, culture, or social movement. These culinary experiments have included the miserable (but fascinating) Tenement Diet and the bowel-moving glory of the Battle Creek Diet.
So, of course I was fascinated when Mark proposed the Starting from Scratch challenge. But living off of what you hunt, find and forage is a hell of a lot easier in rural Ohio than it is in the middle of New York City.
Here's my plan, thus far:
- Forage. There is a great deal of forage available in my neighborhood, and I've had some experience gathering these wild plants. Thanks to a nearby housing project with a large, unkempt lawn, I have ample access to violets, dandelions, wild sorrel, and lamb's quarter. I can start gathering these plants in early May, and store them up for the big week. There is also a pair of Mulberry trees nearby, and I know there are more wild edibles in Central Park.
- Gardening. Currently, I have a windowbox on my fire escape (illegally) that gets about six hours of sun. The only thing that grows there is mint, which I cultivate soley for the purpose of summer mint juleps. That is the extent of my personal outdoor space. I plan on speaking with my landlords, and finding out if they would be opposed to letting me plant a small garden on the roof. If that fails, I'm going to poll my friends and clients and ask them to donate outdoor space. Perhaps I can grow enough food in tiny patches spread out over the five Bouroughs.
- Fishing. Hunting in New York is definitely a no-go, because there ain't not way I am eating rat. But I do live right on the east river, and I see Latin-American dudes fishing there all the time. I was pretty good at fishing when I was a kid, but we just put them back in the river at the end of the day. My family seldom ate seafood, so i have no clue how to gut and clean a fish. And can I get mercury poisoning from NYC fish? Probablly.
Those are my ideas. Other suggestions?
Friday, January 1, 2010
I know that we're having a market day on day one, but there will probably be some foods that are pretty much staples for everyone, and having a variety of seed types/ plants of those foods will help to ensure a productive garden. What do you think?
I just found out that black beans and lentils should grow here, solving my protein issue, but all you carnivores may want to consider growing some too just in case the hunting/ fishing doesn't go as planned. You can make lots of lovely foods with lentils and black beans, and I found a place for organic starter beans if anyone's interested.
I plan on growing mainly heirloom and/or organics; if anyone else wants to go that route, Seeds of Change www.seedsofchange.com has lots of nice veggies, and Trees of Antiquity www.treesofantiquity.com has some great selections of berries, grapes, hardy kiwis, as well as trees of course (not that most of us have any more room for trees in our yards, but the berries and such could be great!).
I know that finding salt in some way is encouraged, but you may also consider adding veggies that are naturally high in sodium such as beets, kale, chard, celery, artichokes, corn, dandelion greens, carrots, and endive to your dishes. This of course won't help you out when using salt for preserving, but for dietary needs, it may do the trick.
Also, at the end of summer growing season, when we all have this amazing harvest, would you all like to do some preserving together? We have a great pressure canner, and Todd has plans to build a solar food dehydrator. Your thoughts?
Everyone involved in this project should post any future questions, comments, etc. here on the blog.
Some of the questions were repetitive as people chimed in; I'll list the first incident of the question in this post.
I (Mark) mentioned having harvested 1-1/2lbs of soybeans, discovered in a field at the public hunting grounds I go to. It took me about 15 minutes to gather the plants, and 5-1/2 hours to shell all the beans. I have since discovered that the shells break open much more easily once they have dried a few days and have a supply of pods drying at the moment. This should help explain my wife's (Jessica) comments about soybeans in her introduction post.
Sarah, having lived through the 'Tenement Diet' experiment on her blog, said that we'd all starve fore sure.
Mark: "No way we'll starve! We may hate what we're eating but i seriously doubt we'll go hungry."
Sarah: "That's probably true. You should give some serious thought to cooking fat. You're going to need a cow or goat to milk and produce butter, or a pig to butcher."
Mark: "I was thinking about a couple of chickens for meat, although it sounds like rabbits would be hilarious. I think a goat is a little much for our urban homestead.
hopefully i can kill some small game this winter and render its fat. they have a lot to keep them warm during the snowing."
Then as Sarah came for a visit, I had mentioned getting a few chickens or a small pig. At this point Jessica told me that I was quite mad, and we didn't have room enough for a pig or chickens. We discussed alternatives, caring for an animal at a local farm, etc. She'll probably be ticked when I come home with a pig and two chickens. She'd better hope my hunting skills improve...
A discussion ensued regarding salt - a long-time staple of society. I'll get to that subject more in another post.
Another conversation with Sarah, in which I get an inadvertent art education;
Sarah: " You also have to think about sugar and grains. You might want to take a page from "The Gleaners" and walk through some wheat and corn fields now and pick up stray grain. Somebody on this project should think about keeping bees. They may even be grants available for honey bee keepers, since the bee population is in such a sorry state right now."
Mark: "I was planning to plant some sugar beets for sugar. Bees sound cool but I don't know if I will want to do this again, and I don't want to be stuck with a permanent colony.
What is this 'Gleaners'?"
Sarah: The Gleaners is a famous painting by Millet: The gleaners were peasants, that would sift through wheat field after the harvest, and pick up missed stalks of grain.
Next in our discussion, Todd came up with the question; "is freeganism ok? Can we "harvest" salt, sugar and ketchup packets?"
"The idea is to eat only foods cultivated by hand - all those packets are processed foods. I'm not really trying to replicate freeganism. Pioneers didn't have McDonald's coffers to raid for dietary needs.
For sugar you can grow some beets or sugar cane, or raise some bees.
And make your own catsup, ya lazy."
-I had posted ideas on salt but as I've said, I'll get to that topic in another post.
Todd next asked, "Can we trade outside of our group? If we harvest 3 bushels of tomatoes, can we trade 1 of them outside of our circle for some butter that someone else made by hand from their cow?"
Opinions varied on this subject; initially I said that trading hand-cultivated goods for like goods, but the peanut gallery seems split on the subject. I'll take this subject up in another post as well.
One thing is certain; trade amongst each other before 'Market Day' is fine. If participants want to swap stores or work out deals in advance by all means.
I urge everyone please think about building your stores sooner than later - the average person (according to the feds who have nothing better to do with your tax dollars) consumes about 33lbs of food per week.
Kathleen brought up a book called "Square Foot Gardening" in an effort to entice Sarah to join the competition, not knowing her spatial restriction. She also brought up vertical gardening, a technique she learned in Scotland. There's sure to be more on the subject posted here in the future. She offered up her library of gardening and permaculture books to anyone who wants to borrow them.
Kathy has shared this idea with some of her European friends - if you're reading along here, welcome! We'd love your feedback added to the process.
Next Jessica raised her objection to abandoning Pepsi for a week, in her words, "I am a pop addict." This generated a bit of discussion, and ultimately it was decided that everyone was allowed one exempt item to consume freely during the week.
If your item is 'McDoubles' then you are a jerk.
Next in the discussion Pete asked about cooking methods. Any modern method of food preservation or preparation is acceptable, and there are no 'off-limits' cooking impliments.
Pete also asked about 3 things; salt, pepper, and oil. The short answer is, no, not unless you use your 'exempt' item.
Kathy mentioned a 'seed exchange= some time in March - this is definitely something we should schedule.
Our final topic of discussion; wild sources of foods. I asked everyone if they knew of any places where food is growing wild such as fruit bearing trees, wild berries, etc. Here are the responses;
Mark: "There are fields planted with soybeans down by Spencer Lake, in Medina. This is public hunting and fishing ground. I pulled a wild carrot from there (one of those plants you have to be careful not to get their poisonous look-alikes) but the root was inedible, even when boiled.
There is a huge mulberry tree right behind our garage, which dumps buckets of fruit late in May.
There is a small apple tree in the field next to Shields where Jessica and I worked. The tree is not maintained at all so it is too high and the fruits are runted, but there are some low-hanging branches."
Pete: "There are thousands of cattails behind me at work. They're not super tasty, but, they're edible in all four seasons, depending on the part. I also have wild strawberries in my front yard. They're tiny, but very sweet.
There are wild blackberries all up and down the Chagrin River from Concord down the east side. I'd assume it's the same for the Black River, with another berry. Ed has told me that there's tons of wild onions and ramps in the Cleveland Metroparks. He's even cultivated some in his garden."
Kathy: "We started raspberry bushes in our yard last year (and they produced fruit this year) and planted a couple of grapevines this year. I don't know exactly how much fruit we'll get from them, but hopefully it will be a good source. We also will have enough veggies to probably feed all of us (all of you included!)
Grandma has some pear trees... maybe we can climb the fence in the cover of darkness to forage for pears... :o)
Tuxedo park has lots of blackberry bushes. We were picking through them at the Knights of Columbus picnic when we went with grandma this past summer."
Kathy also mentioned she would be getting 2 chickens, but won't let me eat 'em. :(