Monday, June 29, 2009

Homegrown

We were able to make an almost completely homemade/homegrown lunch today. Homemade tempeh (yum!) and garlic, onion, greens and peas from our garden (with rice). The homemade tempeh is delicious, fresh-tasting, and mild.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Goat Share

There is a goat share in Santa Fe, at the Tres Placitas Co-housing community. Tres Placitas is home to two milk goats (and currently 5 babies) and not enough of the residents are interested in milking to fill the 14 milking shifts per week. So Tres Placitas allows other people from Santa Fe to take a shift milking the goats. Participants pay a share that helps to pay for food and other necessities for the goats in exchange for the milk. It's a very good model for sharing and maintaining a resource.

Our new friend Michael Combs, street performer extraordinaire, is one of the lucky 12 who has a regular milking shift. For the past month, we've accompanied him on his milking day, learning how to milk and feed the goats in hopes of eventually becoming subs--so that we can fill in a shift when someone is out of town and get the occasional influx of milk for cheese-making. So far, the collective is hesitant to bring on more subs, which is a bummer, but Michael is very generous and sends us home with a little pint of fresh, raw goat milk a week. We're turning this week's milk into kefir.

Both goats, Becca and Katarina, were "freshened" this spring, which means they've had kids. The babies are...pretty cute. See for yourself. If we ever get to the point where we take on more livestock, it will probably be goats. But they're a serious commitment, and I'd definitely want the help of a goat share.

Simple, small-scale coops like this goat share are so important to developing a local, alternative economy. We need more goat shares! And egg coops! Community gardens and home garden exchanges! Brew-shares!


video

Friday, June 26, 2009

Alpacas and their Poo

A nice lady on craigslist was offering composted alpaca poo for free, so we wen on an expedition to bring some back to our garden, which desperately needs nitrogen. We've dug up some failed cole crops and will be replanting them this week with fall crops, and we wanted to give these beds a boost first. Alpaca poo is purportedly great for the garden because it's not too hot, even when fresh, for mature plants. This stuff is composted, and should be very good for our veggies. The woman who owns the ranch is a total sweetheart, and she let some of the babies out to play with us and gave us a tour--she has 20-something alpacas, 2 llamas, 2 great pyrenees herding dogs, and a barn cat named Kiki. I deeply regret that I did not capture video of the baby alpacas rolling upside down in the dirt like a cat taking a dust bath. These guys have personality out the wazoo.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Homemade Tempeh = Cheap Protein

Money is tight around here lately, and so we are in need of cheap sources of protein. With the highs in the upper 80s now, dumpstering meat is questionable at best. And so we've turned again to tempeh, which we last attempted (with mixed success) in the winter. Tempeh is pretty expensive when you buy it from the store, but the cost of dry soybeans is low and a pack of starter that will process 18lbs of beans runs about $12. We got ours from GEM Cultures after a bad experience with starter from another company. This starter also came with easy to follow instructions.

I haven't eaten any of this tempeh yet, but it looks a lot better than the last batch, which fermented for a little too long and was "overripe" but still edible. We watched this batch carefully, and put it in the fridge when the tempeh was firm and covered in white mycelium, without any darker patches.

I'm not going to give our recipe/process for tempeh here right now, because fermented foods that involve mold are a little trickier than other types. This is mostly due to increased chances of contamination of other molds. When making tempeh or anything with a controlled mold, it's very important to keep everything that comes in contact with the beans very clean.
Other tips if you are interested in making tempeh include use of a meat grinder to dehull the beans (it's way faster than doing it by hand) and making sure to use some kind of incubator. Tristan being technically inclined, he rigged up a thermostat to a lightbulb, which he placed in a cooler with the tempeh. I will try to get him to write up his incubator design, because it's pretty handy in general.

So, here we have tempeh made from 1lb dry beans (haven't weighed it now) that cost us about $4. I'd say that's about 25% or less of the cost from the store.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Mushroom Hunt

For starters, I'm sure you all know that collecting wild mushrooms can be dangerous, and that you should never, ever eat a mushroom you find unless you are 1 million percent sure of what it is.

Now that that's out of the way...

We are complete beginners at mushroom hunting. Since last year, we've read quite a few books on the subject and have started growing oyster and shittake mushrooms at home. Today we picked up an identification book that covers only the 6 easiest to identify edible mushrooms. We headed up to the ski basin, not really expecting to find anything, but excited to try.

Well, we spotted a lot of mushrooms, but none that we could eat. We also spotted a TON of flowering strawberry and not yet flowering raspberry plants, and plan to return to harvest those fruits later in the summer. We'll also return to look for mushrooms, hopefully next time with a friend who can guide us to the good stuff.

Here's Tristan, with his Swiss mountaineer look and his empty mushroom basket.
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fate Intervenes

Last night, fate intervened and settled the question of our young rooster, Prufrock. Prufrock had taken to roosting on the fence instead of in the coop, and he is so fast and ornery that we just let him. For the last few weeks, we've been watching his tail feathers grow, and while he had not yet begun to crow, we were making plans to dispatch him. We live in a neighborhood and roosters don't really make for happy neighbors--last year, we gave our rooster to the animal shelter and they were not happy about taking him. So when we bought our day-olds, we vowed that if one of the little fuzzballs turned out to be a he, we'd thank him, butcher him, and eat him in a very special dinner.

Well, Tristan was awakened around 1:30 this morning by some frightened squaking, and went outside to investigate. He didn't see Prufrock, but also didn't see any animals in the yard. This morning, the evidence was there. Feathers all over the ground in the yard, but then, as I suspect is often the case, no trace of where he was carried off to next. And so, we will not have to face killing some of our livestock for yet another year. It's a little sad, but since we'd been plotting his murder, we weren't really going to do him any better than whatever got him last night. Goodbye Prufrock!
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Monday, June 22, 2009

Keeping the Vampires at Bay

Here is our garlic, hung in bunches of 5 to cure for a couple of weeks. It makes a nice kitchen decoration, too, and fills the room with a subtle garlic scent.
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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Dumpster Pie

Tristan dumpstered a bunch of apples, which today met a much better end than the landfill or even the compost: they made it into a delicious apple pie!
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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Garlic Harvest

Last night some friends/mentors took us out for a wonderful dinner at Vinaigrette, a relatively new restaurant that features salads--100% of the greens this time of year come from the owner's organic farm, outside of Santa Fe. I have to say that my salad, baby arugula with duck, goat cheese, and vinaigrette, was one of the best meals I've ever had in my life. In fact, this salad (and the great conversation) made me so ecstatic that when I got home, I simply could not wait a moment longer to harvest our garlic patch. Never mind that it was dark.

This is the first time we've grown garlic. We bought the seeds from the Farmer's Market and planted it back in October, and while it grew I learned what I could from A Garlic Testament, a great book by local garlic farmer Stanley Crawford. From reading his book and researching online, we learned that it can be hard to tell when garlic is ready for harvest, and that the optimum window of time is only 3-7 days long. Generally, you harvest garlic when the plant has started to brown somewhat, and after you've stopped watering it for a couple of weeks.

Well, the harvested garlic looks amazing. We've got about 40 bulbs, and the vast majority are nice and large. The garlic now has to be tied in bunches and hung to cure for several weeks, at which point we'll prepare it for longer term storage. This is the first time we've grown anything that we really planned to store, and it's very exciting for me as a glimpse into what producing much more of our food for storage might be like.

We grew top setting garlic, which has beautiful skins blotched with purple and, if the scapes aren't harvested, with produce small bulbils at the top of the plant. This makes top setting garlic the only variety still able to propagate itself without human intervention, and so in the interest of biodiversity and the long term survival of one of my favorite foods, that is what we chose to grow.


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Kefir

Sorry for the long hiatus--as it turns out, it takes a lot out of you to work 40 hours a week AND run a community garden. The blog fell out of the picture for awhile, but now that the garden is getting settled, here's hoping I'm back for good.

Our yogurt-making and cheese-making has also taken a hit in our recent increase in activity, which is why we were thrilled when a friend of ours offered us some Kefir grains. This has been on the wish-list for awhile. As most of you probably know, kefir is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, sort of like kombucha, but for milk. It tastes great, has healthy cultures in it, and can be more digestible for people who are lactose intolerant.

Kefir is easier and less time consuming to make than yogurt or cheese. You add the grains to milk, let it ferment at room temperature for 24 hours or so (depending on how much milk, how many grains, and the temp) and voila! The grains grow over time, so soon we should have enough to share with friends.


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