Monday, November 23, 2009


Okay as I stated in my last post I have received a seed catalog and to be honest I can't help but look at it with my mind on next year's growing season. Well while reading I found an interesting tomato plant called the silvery fir tree. I was wondering if any of my readers have had any experience with this plant and could give me any advice concerning it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Seed Catalog

Just received either our first seed catalog for next year's growing season or the last seed catalog for this year's growing season. Couldn't help but peruse it as soon as I took it out of the mail box. Of course my mind started to wonder what seeds should I buy and should we try any new varities or stick with ones we know about. Well here is to Seed Savers who have already have me thinking of next year. How long is it till spring?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Refreshing Night

Last night Naomi, Five Crows, Fractured Thoughts, and several others got together for a pot luck meal made from locally grown and raised food. We had salads, green bean casserole, pot roast, pork tenderloin, apple/ leek cheese pastries, and apple cranberry crumble for dessert. The food was excellent and the company was even better.

The impetus for this occasion was the screening of FRESH the movie at the barn in Prairie Crossing. There have been quite a few movies of late about the issue of agriculture and our food industry. I would not suggest this as someone's first movie about current issues in the food and agriculture industry, but it did have some informative insights as well as a thorough interview of Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms. Joel was as entertaining and informative as he was in Food Inc., however this movie covered his views and the reasons for his farming methods better than any other movie he has been featured in. Of course I think Michael Pollan, the founding father ofmodern food reform, explains him the best:

I asked Joel how he answers the charge that because food like his is more expensive, it is inherently elitist. “I don’t accept the premise,” he replied. “First off, those weren’t any ‘elitists’ you met on the farm this morning. We sell to all kinds of people. Second, whenever I hear people say clean food is expensive, I tell them it’s actually the cheapest food you can buy. That always gets their attention. Then I explain that, with our food, all of the costs are figured into the price. Society is not bearing the cost of water pollution, of antibiotic resistance, of food-borne illnesses, of crop subsidies, of subsidized oil and water — of all the hidden costs to the environment and the taxpayer that make cheap food seem cheap. No thinking person will tell you they don’t care about all that. I tell them the choice is simple: You can buy honestly priced food or you can buy irresponsibly priced food.” Source: No Bar Code, Mother Jones

Also Michael Pollan's book Omnivore's Dilemma best explains Joel Salatin's farming views and ideas.

The other main character of this movie is Will Allen, a self described food industry drop out. Will is the founder and president of Growing Power, which is an organization that has a simple goal; to grow food, to grow minds, and to grow community. Will started this organization simply enough. He wanted to find work for the teens in his community and to give them a job that would help them give back to their community. From this humble beginning this organization has transformed into a national commitment to sustainable food systems. Growing Power not only provides for its immediate neighborhoods, but also serves as a training facility to teach others how to replicate the methods that they use.

Will Allen produces about $850,000 of health fresh food on just three acres of land in the middle of an urban jungle. Growing Power has six greenhouses, ten hoophouses, pens for goats, turkeys, and chickens. They also have a sustainable system for raising 10,000 tiliapia and perch. Proving to everyone that you can grow a large amount of food on a small area and that people who live in the urban "food deserts" do not need to settle for just processed foods. Everyone is entitled to the right to enjoy fresh delicious produce and meat.

So my recomendation is go see the movie, but if this is your first trip into the world of Slow Food, or agriculture revolution then don't stop here and keep on reading and watching. Your body, mind and soul will thank you for it.

If there are no upcoming screenings in your area, please contact the director to get a DVD to host a local screening in your home or community center.

You can also become a fan on Facebook (they list the upcoming screenings on there, too).

Friday, November 13, 2009

CSA News

Last Saturday, Nick Janovski (better known as Farmer Nick) had his pick up for his meat and egg CSA. I picked up my quarter share at the Grayslake Farmers' Market. Farmer Nick sells pastrue raised pork and free range chicken. As his sign says,"Even better than organic!" His farm is in Walworth, Wisconsin. I am looking forward to the time I get to have a look at his farm. He is our Joel Salatin.

Unlike many other CSAs the shares were not separated but made to order. For my order I told Nick that the only item I desperately wanted was the bacon. Fresh, thick cut bacon is just simply divine in my opinion and the bacon from his farm surpasses even that praise. As for the rest I told him to surprise me and give me whatever he wanted. So for the rest of my quarter share I took home a rack of ribs, a package of pork short ribs, a package of ground pork, a package of ground beef, and a pork tenderloin. You might ask how much is a quarter share?

Well that answer is just $40.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sauce, Butter, and Leeks

Well last weekend Naomi and I went west in order to go apple pickin'. McHenry county has quite a bit of apple orchards but unfortunately Naomi and I waited to the last possible month, one could wait, to go apple pickin'. Luckily a few orchards still had some late season varieties and some apple cider left for us.

Our first stop was to All Seasons Farm Nursery & Landscape, which is a large orchard with all the bells and whistles; hayrides, mazes, cafeteria, and so much more. Last year we went to this one at the height of the season and left without anything due to the crowds. Yet, this year no crowds, no waits, and much cheaper apples. Our next stop was to Prairie Sky Orchard where we bought some more Jonagold and some honey crisp. This orchard was more to our liking; small, pleasant, and a homier feel. Lastly, we stopped at Homestead Orchard and actually picked apples off of the trees. This orchard was by far my favorite of the three. Here the owners were having a special which basically amounted to buy one peck of apples get another peck free. Needless to say we picked two pecks and ended up with 24 obs. of apples just from this orchard. At Homestead Orchards we picked Galas, Empires, Golden Blushings, McIntosh, Braeburn and Winesap varieties. By the end of the day we had a trunk full of apples, a couple gallons of cider, and a busy couple of days cooking ahead of us (by us I mostly mean Naomi).

Later that day Naomi began making apple sauce and apple butter. Both of these recipes can be found in the Ball canning book. Yet the main difference in apple sauce and apple butter appears to be in cooking time. The apple butter is cooked for longer in order, I guess, to give it a thicker texture. That night we also had apple pie and an apple/leek pastry for dinner and just to complete the theme a bit of apple cider to wash it all down with.

Apple/Leek Cheese Pastry

2-3 medium size apples
1 medium size leek
(In actuality there should be an equal amount of apples and leeks)
2-3 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
Pinch of Pepper
Olive Oil
1 Thawed Package of Phyllo dough

Start by coring and slicing the apples--We have an apple corer that does an awesome job with this. If you don't have one and are going to cook with apples I suggest that you get one. Life becomes so much easier.

Then slice the leeks into pieces of equal size to the apples.

Put the oil into the skillet and then heat the pan to medium heat.

Put the apples and leeks into the pan and the season lightly with pepper. Stir the contents of the pan occasionally and cook until the apples and leeks are soft.

While the apples and leeks are cooking shred about three cups of cheddar cheese and then put it into a large bowl.

After the contents of the pan are cooked put them into the bowl with the cheese. Next stir the mixture until every thing is mixed thoroughly.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put a sheet of Phyllo dough onto a sheet pan and then brush half of it with olive oil. Then fold in half so the unoiled part is folded into the oiled part. Now brush half of that with olive oil and then fold again. Now you should be down to a quarter of the original sheet. Place a spoonful(s) of the apple, leek, cheese mixture into the center of the phyllo dough. Now fold up the edges as you would with an egg roll wrapper. Place the finish pastry onto an oiled sheet pan.

Repeat the above step until you run out of the apple, leek, cheese mixture. Then place the sheet pan into the oven and cook for approximately 30 minutes or until they are golden brown.