Archive for November, 2013


Got Pie?

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Thanksgiving is just days away and your pie-loving friends here at Chelsea Green thought we’d share with you one of our favorite fruit pie recipes.

The following apple pie recipe was adapted from Michael Phillips’ book The Apple Grower by the foodies over at The Washington Post and is named for Michael’s farm in northern New Hampshire. Make sure not to miss Michael’s newest book — The Holistic Orchard.

Michael recommends this pie for Thanksgiving, or other special occasions. In Vermont, we’re still picking over the last of the fall’s apple harvest in our coops so we have some fruit still worthy of being turned into pie.

Pay close attention to this recipe as it calls for cider jelly, which is a separate process that may require more time than your normal pie recipe. But, it’s well worth the extra work.

Lost Nation Cider Pie

This might be the sleeper among your holiday desserts. Lost Nation is a rural enclave in northernmost New Hampshire, near the Canadian border. Resident farmers Michael and Nancy Phillips hold an annual party at which cider from their apple orchards, and this pie, are served.

You’ll need enough pie dough, either homemade or store-bought, for a double-crust pie. Serve topped with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.

MAKE AHEAD: The recipe calls for making cider jelly, which is done by boiling fresh apple cider to the jellying stage. The jelly may be made up to 5 days in advance, then covered and refrigerated. Alternatively, prepared cider jelly may be used.

If you’d like to make more than you need for this recipe, a gallon of fresh apple cider will yield about 2 cups of cider jelly. Store in sterilized canning jars.

Makes one 9-inch pie (8 servings)

Ingredients:

For the cider jelly

1/2 gallon fresh apple cider (see headnote; may substitute 1 cup store-bought cider jelly)
For the pie

homemade or store-bought pastry for a two-crust 9-inch pie
2 medium apples, such as Honeycrisp or Granny Smith, peeled, cored, cut in half, then cut into very thin slices
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch salt
1/2 cup boiling water
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Directions:

For the cider jelly: Pour the cider into a medium heavy, nonreactive pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature, which should come up to 220 degrees (the jellying stage). Boil until the cider has reduced to almost 1 cup, adjusting the heat and stirring as needed to avoid scorching. This can take from 75 to 90 minutes.

When the cider has reduced and thickened, remove it from the heat. Transfer to a heatproof container and cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the pie: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Use the homemade or store-bought crust to line a 9-inch pie plate, folding under and pinching the edges to form a tidy rim. Arrange the apple slices on the surface of the bottom pie crust dough in flat layers. Have the top round of pie dough ready.

Combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add the cider jelly and just-boiled water; mix well.

Whisk together the egg and melted butter in a liquid measuring cup, then add the mixture to the sugar-cider jelly mixture, stirring to combine. Pour the mixture carefully over the apples in the pie plate. Place the top crust on the pie; crimp the edges around the rim and use a knife to make several small cuts in the top (to allow steam to escape). Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch any drips); bake for 40 minutes or until the top crust is golden.

Transfer the pie to a wire rack to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Pastured Turkey Cooking Tips, and a Recipe for Walnut Sausage Stuffing

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

By Shannon Hayes

For the past week, farm families across the country (including my own) have been rising each morning to engage in what has become our own unique, albeit macabre, Thanksgiving Tradition.  We are processing our turkeys. 

Unlike the factory-farmed birds found in most grocery stores, these birds are usually processed just a few feet from the lush grasses where they were raised, quite often by the same hands that first gently set their newly hatched toes into a brooder, and then carefully moved them, once they were old enough, out to the fields for a few months of free-ranging turkey living.  Now that the processing complete, our birds sit in our coolers and await our customers, who will venture out to the farm for a tradition of their own, retrieving their annual Thanksgiving feast.  For those of you who are new to this process, here is a list of tips to guide you through and make sure that you have a delicious holiday feast.

  1. Please be flexible. If you are buying your pasture-raised turkey from a small, local, sustainable farmer, thank you VERY much for supporting us. That said, please remember that pasture-raised turkeys are not like factory-farmed birds. Outside of conscientious animal husbandry, we are unable to control the size of our Thanksgiving turkeys. Please be forgiving if the bird we have for you is a little larger or a little smaller than you anticipated. Cook a sizeable quantity of sausage stuffing if it is too small (a recipe appears below), or enjoy the leftovers if it is too large.  If the bird is so large that it cannot fit in your oven, simply remove the legs before roasting it.
  2. Know what you are buying. If you don’t personally know the farmer who is growing your turkey, take the time to know what you are buying! “Pastured” is not necessarily the same as “free-range.” Some grass-based farmers use the word “free-range” to describe their pasture-raised birds, but any conventional factory farm can also label their birds “free-range” if they are not in individual cages, and if they have “access” to the outdoors – even if the “outdoors” happens to be feces-laden penned-in concrete pads outside the barn door, with no access to grass. “Pastured” implies that the bird was out on grass for most of its life, where it ate grass and foraged for bugs, in addition to receiving some grain.
  3. Brining optional. If tradition dictates that you season your meat by brining your bird, by all means, do so. However, many people brine in order to keep the bird from drying out. This is not at all necessary. Pastured birds are significantly juicier and more flavorful than factory farmed birds. You can spare yourself this extra step as a reward for making the sustainable holiday choice!
  4. Monitor the internal temperature. Somewhere, a lot of folks came to believe that turkeys needed to be roasted until they had an internal temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Yuck. You don’t need to do that. Your turkey need only be cooked to 165 degrees. If the breast is done and the thighs are not, take the bird out of the oven, carve off the legs and thighs, and put them back in to cook while you carve the breast and make your gravy. That entire holiday myth about coming to the table with a perfect whole bird and then engaging in exposition carving is about as realistic as expecting our daughters will grow up to look like Barbie (and who’d want that, anyhow?). Just have fun and enjoy the good food.
  5. Cook the stuffing separately. I know a lot of folks like to put the stuffing inside their holiday birds, and if Thanksgiving will be positively ruined if you break tradition, then stuff away. However, for a couple reasons, I recommend cooking your stuffing separately. First, everyone’s stuffing recipe is different. Therefore, the density will not be consistent, which means that cooking times will vary dramatically. I am unable to recommend a cooking time, since I cannot control what stuffing each person uses. Also, due to food safety concerns, I happen to think it is safer to cook the stuffing outside the bird. Plus, it is much easier to lift and move both the bird and the stuffing when prepared separately, and to monitor the doneness of each. Rather than putting stuffing in my bird’s cavity, I put in aromatics, like an onion, carrot, garlic and some fresh herbs. When the bird is cooked, I add these aromatics to my compost heap. The aromatics perfume the meat beautifully, and the only seasoning I wind up using on the surface is butter, salt and pepper.
  6. No need to flip. I used to ascribe to that crazy method of first roasting the bird upside down, then flipping it over to brown the breast. The idea was that the bird would cook more evenly, and the breast wouldn’t dry out. When I did this, the turkey came out fine. But I suffered 2nd degree burns, threw out my back, ruined two sets of potholders and nearly dropped the thing on the floor. Pasture-raised turkeys are naturally juicy. Don’t make yourself crazy with this stunt. Just put it in the oven breast-side up, like you would a whole chicken, and don’t over-cook it. Take it out when the breast is 165 degrees (see #2, above).   If, despite the disparaging comments in item 2, above, you still want to show off the whole bird, then bring it into the dining room, allow everyone to ooh and aah, then scuttle back to the kitchen, and proceed as explained above.
  7. Be ready for faster cook times. Pasture-raised turkeys will cook faster than factory-farmed birds. Figure on 12-15 minutes per pound, uncovered, at 325 degrees as you plan your dinner. That said, oven temperatures and individual birds will always vary. Use an internal meat thermometer to know for sure when the bird is cooked. For more help with cooking your turkey, don’t forget to refer to The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook by Shannon Hayes. What?!? You don’t own a copy yet? Click here to buy one immediately!
  8. Use a good-quality roasting pan. If this is your first Thanksgiving and you do not yet own a turkey roasting pan and cannot find one to borrow, treat yourself to a really top-quality roaster, especially if you have a sizeable bird. (I don’t like to endorse products, but I must say that my favorite is the large stainless All-Clad roaster. Last I knew they were still made in the U.S.A. – but then, I bought mine ten years ago, so that may have changed. My mom has other name-brand roasting pans, and they are shabby in comparison to mine. Please don’t tell her I said that….) Cheap aluminum pans from the grocery store can easily buckle when you remove the bird from the oven, potentially causing the cook serious burns or myriad other injuries in efforts to catch the falling fowl.  Plus, they often end up in the recycling bin, or worse, landfills. If you buy a good quality large roasting pan, and you happen to have a copy of The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook (another shameless hint), I guarantee you will have multiple uses for the pan!
  9. Pick the meat off the bird before making stock. If you plan to make soup from your turkey leftovers, be sure to remove all the meat from the bones before you boil the carcass for stock. Add the chunks of turkey back to the broth just before serving the soup. This prevents the meat from getting rubbery and stringy. For an extra-nutritious stock, follow the advice offered in Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon, and add a tablespoon of vinegar to the water 30 minutes before you begin boiling the carcass or, better still, use the recipe for chicken stock in The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook. The process of adding acid to the stock draws more minerals from the bones and releases them into the liquid.
  10. Help is available. In recent years, our home seems to have become the unofficial Sustainable Thanksgiving Hotline. Please do not hesitate to write to me with your questions at [email protected]. I make a point of checking email often right up through Thanksgiving Day (I stop around noon), so that I can promptly respond to your questions or concerns. Enjoy your holiday!

And finally, here’s my favorite recipe for walnut sausage stuffing:

Walnut Sausage Stuffing (serves 8 )

  • 1 whole baguette, chopped into ½ inch cubes and allowed to sit out overnight
  • 2 Tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 1 cup walnuts, mildly crushed
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1# Sweet Italian, Hot Italian, or Breakfast sausage
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 4 onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (or use one cup fresh)
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 2 T rubbed sage
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bring a mid-sized skillet up to a medium-hot temperature.

Add the fennel seeds and allow them to toast until fragrant.

Remove the seeds to a small dish, then add the walnuts to the same hot, dry skillet and allow them to toast 3-5 minutes, taking care to stir them constantly to prevent burning.

Pour the walnuts off into a large bowl.

Add olive oil to the same skillet, then fry the sausage until it is cooked through (about 8-10 minutes).

Remove the sausage to the same large bowl containing the walnuts.

Add the butter to the skillet, allowing it to melt and blend with the sausage drippings.

Add the onions and carrots, sauté 2 minutes, then add the cranberries and raisins and sauté two minutes longer.

Sprinkle the sage over the vegetables, sauté 1 minute, then add the garlic and toasted fennel seeds.

Sauté two minutes longer, then add the entire mixture into the large bowl with the walnuts and sausage.

To the same big bowl, add the bread, chicken broth, eggs, salt, pepper and brandy, and prepare to get messy.

Using your hands (or salad servers), thoroughly mix all the ingredients.

Butter a 13 x 9 inch baking pan, add the stuffing, then cover tightly with a piece of buttered aluminum foil.

Allow the stuffing to cook 35 minutes, the remove the foil and allow it to bake 30 minutes longer, until the top is nicely crisped and lightly browned.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Shannon Hayes is the host of grassfedcooking.com and the author of Long Way on a Little, The Farmer and the Grill, The Grassfed Gourmet and Radical Homemakers. She works with her family on Sap Bush Hollow Farm in Upstate New York.

Happy Holiday’s from Chelsea Green Publishing!

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

UPDATED January 1st: Our Holiday Sale has been such a success we’re extending it through January 15, 2014! So, while the holiday’s may have passed, you can still save 35% site-wide with discount code CGS13 (plus free shipping if you spend $100 or more).

—–

We’ve kicked off our Holiday Sale – with 35% off any purchase at our on-line bookstore. Simply use the code CGS13 at checkout from now until the end of the year. Along with this great discount, we have free shipping on any orders over $100*.

Is there a small farmer or organic gardener on your gift list? How about a builder? Or foodies and cooks? Whomever you have on your shopping list, we’ve got you covered.

Don’t forget about our bundles, sets and DVDs!

Need a recommendation? Email us at [email protected]

Happy Holiday’s from the Employee Owners at Chelsea Green Publishing

 


*Discount codes do not combine with other offers—our books already on sale for example.
Free shipping for orders $100 or more is applied after the discount is applied. (U.S. Orders Only). 

~ The Homesteader ~

The Resilient Farm and Homestead
Retail: $40.00
Sale: $26.00
The New Cider Makers Handbook
Retail: $44.95
Sale: $29.22
The Sugarmaker's Companion
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $25.97
Keeping a Family Cow
Retail: $19.95
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The Small-Scale Poultry Flock
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Natural Beekeeping, Revised and Expanded
Retail: $34.95
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Holistic Orchard with Michael Phillips
Retail: $49.95
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Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land
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~ The Fermenter ~ 

The Art of Fermentation
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Wild Fermentation
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Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning
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Mastering Artisan Cheese
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The Naturalist ~ 

Out on A Limb
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The Zero Waste Solution
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2052
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Cows Save The Planet
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The Gardener ~ 

Gaia's Garden, 2nd Edition
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The Winter Harvest Handbook
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Seed to Seed
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Perennial Vegetables
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The Foodie ~ 

Rebuilding the Foodshed
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Raising Dough
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Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Food Rights
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The Small Farmer ~ 

Market Farming Success, Revised and Expanded Edition
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The Organic Seed Grower
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The Organic Farmer's Business Handbook
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Fields of Farmers
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The Cook ~ 

From the Wood-Fired Oven
Retail: $44.95
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Home Baked
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Cooking Close to Home
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Farm-Fresh and Fast
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The Natural Builder ~ 

No-Regrets Remodeling, Second Edition
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Sale: $19.47
The Greened House Effect
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Sale: $19.47
The Natural Building Companion
Retail: $59.95
Sale: $38.97
Compact Living
Retail: $14.95
Sale: $9.72

The Local Living Economist ~ 

What Then Must We Do?
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Sale: $11.67
Good Morning, Beautiful Business
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Local Dollars, Local Sense
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Slow Money
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Celebrate Agricultural Literacy Week with NOFA-VT: November 18-24

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

This week, our friends at NOFA-Vermont are celebrating Agricultural Literacy Week.

It’s an opportunity to encourage knowledge and understanding of agriculture in Vermont’s schools and communities. But where to start? We’re glad that you asked.

For nearly three decades, Chelsea Green’s books on food, gardening, and agriculture have been staples for any literate locavore’s bookshelf. Here are some of our recent additions to our long list of titles that will help deepen your knowledge and expand your skills.

Start with The Organic Seed Grower and The Organic Grain Grower–complete guides on cultivating from the ground up. These books provide in-depth, how-to techniques from two longtime experts, John Navazio and Jack Lazor.

If it’s a holistic and whole systems approach you’re looking for — check out Ben Falk’s The Resilient Farm & Homestead , or Carol Deppe’s The Resilient Gardener.

If you’re more of a visual learner than be sure to check out Holistic Orcharding with Michael Phillips DVD for a dose of inspiration. Michael explains how to care for your orchard in every season.

Finish your journey to the agricultural book world with Market Farming Success, Gaia’s Garden, and Rebuilding the Foodshed.

Of course, no bookshelf is complete without one of Eliot Coleman’s books: The New Organic Grower is a perennial favorite of newcomers and old-timers alike, as is his full-color book, The Winter Harvest Handbook.

These books are sure to increase your agricultural literacy, as well as the literacy of your friends, family, and neighbors. Be sure to share the your knowledge.

How do you think we should be celebrating Agriculture Literacy Week? Share your ideas with us on Twitter and Facebook.

Happy Agricultural Literacy Week from the folks at Chelsea Green Publishing!

Intelligence and Intuition: Ben Kilham’s Groundbreaking Work with Bears

Monday, November 18th, 2013

A man who holds hands with full-grown bears, crawls into their dens to photograph their cubs, and comes face-to-face with their sharp teeth? It sounds crazy, but it’s just another day in the life of Benjamin Kilham, author of Out on a Limb.

Kilham has been studying and researching wild black bear behavior for nearly two decades. See some of that groundbreaking (and, at times, yes, cute) work in this video footage, complete with images of cute bear cubs.

Kilham’s dyslexia—which initially barred him from traditional academic outlets for his research—has offered him the chance to provide us with unique observations that offer a fascinating glimpse at the inner world of bears. In observing how bears communicate to one another, Kilham has made some startling discoveries—ones that may provide insight into how early humans communicated and shared resources in order to thrive. It’s also helped Kilham gain additional insight into his own dyslexia.

“Different minds work in different ways, and we need to find ways to foster a variety of talents,” writes Temple Grandin in the Foreword. “Ben forged ahead and did what made sense to him, despite tough times in the academic world. As a result, he has unveiled their wild world for us, helped orphaned bears reenter it, and helped solve human-bear conflicts.”

Many of the bears Kilham works with view him as a surrogate mother, especially Squirty, a 17-year-old bear who is the matriarchal bear who grants him a unique perch into her territory. He feeds them, walks them, and helps them discover their natural habitat before reintroducing them into the wild.

“Like Jane Goodall’s studies of chimps, Ben Kilham’s work with black bears is more than just revealing: it’s revolutionary,” writes Sy Montgomery, author of Walking with the Great Apes and Search for the Golden Moon Bear. “This riveting book supports two astonishing conclusions: that bears are far more sophisticated than most scientists dared imagine, and that dyslexia, once considered a failing, may simply be another, and often valuable, way of thinking. Ben’s work will transform our understanding of how animals live—and how science should be done.”

Kilham’s discoveries and methods are now being recognized in China, where he is working with researchers who are emulating some of his tactics in order to improve their own program to reintroduce Pandas in the wild.

Of possible interest to Chelsea Green’s longtime readers: We published Ben’s father – Lawrence Kilham, too. Lawrence Kilham’s book On Watching Birds (1988) similarly approaches bird watching with the same kind of keen eye and mind that Ben Kilham uses in approaching bears. On Watching Birds was also awarded the prestigious John Burroughs Medal for environmental writing.

Out on a Limb: What Black Bears Have Taught Me about Intelligence and Intuition is available now and on sale for 35% off until November 22nd. Read the foreword (by Temple Grandin) and Introduction below.

Special Coverage: UN Climate Change Summit via Democracy Now!

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

If you wanted a front row seat to the United Nations climate summit in Warsaw, Poland, but couldn’t make the trek — you’re in luck.

Our fellow Media Consortium friends over at Democracy Now! are in Poland and will bring special coverage of the special United Nation climate summit throughout the week of November 18, and are providing us with a direct link to their live coverage.

Democracy Now!, an independent, global news hour, brings you live reports from the annual United Nations Climate Change Summit taking place this year in Warsaw, Poland. Tune in from Monday, Nov. 18 through Friday, Nov. 22 for on-the-ground coverage of the official U.N. negotiations, as well as interviews with journalists, scientists, policy makers, stakeholders and activists — who are working to sway opinion both inside the conference and with protests outside in the streets.

If you miss the live broadcast from 8-9 AM EDT, Democracy Now! will post a repeat show on their Livestream channel by 10:30 AM EDT, which you can access through the embedded player below.

This is the fifth year that Democracy Now! is providing a live television broadcast from the U.N. climate summit. Click here to see coverage from previous meetings in Doha, Durban, Copenhagen and Cancun

While you’re watching – see if you hear any of the solutions put forward by Chelsea Green authors like Amory Lovins in his book Reinventing Fire, which calls for reliance on renewable energy by 2050 and an end to the Age of Oil, or the calls by Dr. Paul Connett, in his new book The Zero Waste Solution, for an end to the wasteful consumption and packaging that is ravaging the planet. Hopefully, we won’t hear or anyone pushing the notion that nuclear is a legitimate option for energy sources of the future. Author Gar Smith dispelled the myth of the nuclear renaissance in his damning exposé Nuclear Roulette.

If you’re looking for additional insight into what the world will look like in the face of climate change in the coming 40 years, be sure to check out Jorgen Randers’ latest book, 2052. Randers was one of the original authors of Limits to Growth, which was published in 1972 and represented a major shift in many people looked at growth as it affected the climate, planetary resources, and the human condition. In 2012, on the 40th anniversary of the publication of Limits to Growth, Chelsea Green published 2052, which originated as a special report to the Club of Rome, that looked at what could happen in the coming 40 years — from population growth and inter-generational disputes to climate adaptation an perpetual, stagnant economic  growth. In this summary, Randers looked at eight ways the world will change, as well as how we can prepare ourselves for these changes.

So, sit back – get informed. Take action.

Watch live streaming video from democracynow at livestream.com

RECIPE: Dry-Fried Okra

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Wood-fired oven are not just for baking bread and pizza! If you utilize the full heat-cycle, as Richard Miscovich details in From the Wood-Fired Oven, you can make a wide range of tasty eats during just one firing—from roasting meats and vegetables to drying herbs.

With live-fire roasting, this recipe for Dry-Fried Okra comes out nice and crispy—an alternative to the more gooey okra you’d find in gumbo or stew. Warm up your kitchen this fall and winter with Dry-Fried Okra from Miscovich’s From the Wood-Fired Oven.

What’s Got Four Legs, Provides Milk, and Is in Your Backyard?

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Cow. Just the word alone is worth repeating. Beyond that, cows provide milk, cream, butter, cheese, and meat—if you’re into that—not to mention, they’re furry and kinda cute. While most people opt for dogs, cats, or fish to keep around the house, Joann Grohman’s Keeping a Family Cow may have you reconsidering your options. Why not own a cow?

Originally published in the early 1970s as The Cow Economy, Keeping a Family Cow, Revised and Updated Edition, is the Chelsea Green edition of Grohman’s nearly forty-year-old classic that is the go-to book for homesteaders looking to keep a single cow.

“This book combines food philosophy with a practicum of knowledge and experience that Ms. Grohman has acquired in her eighty-five years in and around Jersey cows,” writes Jack Lazor of Butterworks Farm in the Foreword. “Joann’s book is a field manual for both the experienced and inexperienced alike.”

This new edition is already establishing itself as the must-read homesteader book, and has been featured on such popular food and farming websites, such as Civil Eats, as well as The Greenhorns.

In addition, Down East Magazine  wrote a great feature – with some fantastic photos – on Joann and her lifelong devotion to keeping a family cow, and it’s importance. You can get a peek of the page previews below from Patryce Bake Photography Facebook Page, but for the full slideshow make sure to visit Down East Magazine. Trust us, the photos alone are worth the click.

It includes detailed and extensive information on a variety of useful topics including:

  • The health benefits of untreated milk;
  • How to milk a cow effectively;
  • Details on calving and breeding;
  • The importance of hay quality and how to feed your cow properly;
  • Fencing and pasture management;
  • Treating milk fever and other diseases and disorders; and,
  • Making butter, yogurt, and cheese.

“Highly recommended for anyone interested in grass-based farming and nutrient-dense food—not just family cow owners—Keeping a Family Cow will instill great appreciation for the sacred bond between domesticated animal and the human beings who care for them,” writes Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Joann is also featured speaker at this year’s Weston A. Price conference, going on now in Atlanta. And if you don’t already make sure to follow Joann on Facebook here.

Keeping a Family Cow, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide for Home-Scale, Holistic Dairy Producers is available now and on sale for 35% off until November 22nd. 

 

Read Chapter 2: What Makes Cows So Important.

Image Credit: Joann’s Facebook Page.

Seed Diversity: The “Other Currency” Required for Food Security

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Below is an article that recently ran on Grist.org by author Gary Nabhan, who’s recent Chelsea Green book is Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land.

Earlier this year, Gary penned a popular Opinion piece in The New York Times (Our Coming Food Crisis, and was later featured on Tom Ashbrook’s NPR program, OnPoint examining the impact of the extended drought and changing climates on food and agriculture.

In this piece Nabhan looks more specifically at the growing rise in seed saving and non-GMO seed plantings and the decline in Monsanto’s global sales. A promising trend?

Below is the full piece, and you can go over to Grist and weigh in with comments there.

———

It is puzzling that Monsanto’s Vice President Robert Fraley recently became one of the recipients of the World Food Prize for providing GMO seeds to combat the effects of climate change, just weeks after Monsanto itself reported a $264 million loss this quarter because of a decline in interest and plummeting sales in its genetically-engineered “climate-ready” seeds. And since Fraley received his award, the production of GMO corn has been formally banned by Mexico, undoubtedly seen as one of Monsanto’s major potential markets.

The World Food Prize, offered each year on World Food Day, is supposed to underscore the humanitarian importance of viable strategies to provide a sustainable and nutritious food supply to the billions of hungry and food-insecure people on this planet. Ironically, what is engaging widespread public involvement in achieving this goal is not Monsanto’s GMOs, but the great diversity of farmer-selected and heirloom seeds in many communities. Why? Because such food biodiversity may be the most prudent “bet-hedging” strategy for dealing with food insecurity and climate uncertainty.

Consumer demand in the U.S. has never been stronger for a diversity of seeds and other planting stock of heirloom and farmer-selected food crops, as well as for wild native seeds. One of the many indicators that the public wants alternatives to Monsanto is that more than 150 community-controlled seed libraries have emerged across the country during the last five years. And over the last quarter century, those who voluntarily exchange seeds of heirloom and farmer-selected varieties of vegetables, fruits, and grains have increased the diversity of their offerings fourfold, from roughly 5000 to more than 20,000 plant selections.  During the same timeframe, the number of non-GMO, non-hybrid food crop varieties offered by seed catalogs, nurseries, and websites has increased from roughly 5000 to more than 8500 distinctive varieties.

And yet, these grassroots efforts and consumer demand are largely being overlooked by both governments and most philanthropic foundations engaged in fighting hunger and enhancing human health. Even prior to the partial U.S. government shutdown, federal support for maintaining seed diversity for food justice, landscape resilience, and ecosystems services had begun to falter. Budget cuts have crippled USDA crop resource conservation efforts and the budgets for nine of the twenty-nine remaining NRCS Plant Materials Centers are reportedly on the chopping block. As accomplished curators of vegetable, fruit, and grain diversity retire from federal and state institutions, they are seldom replaced, leaving several historically important collections at risk.

It is as if Washington politicians and bureaucrats were failing to recognize a simple fact that more than 68 million American households of gardeners, farmers, and ranchers clearly understand: seed diversity is as much a “currency” necessary for ensuring food security and economic well-being as money. These households spend on average hundreds of dollars each year purchasing a variety of seeds, seedlings, and fruit trees because of their concern for the nutritive value, flavor, and the quality of food they put in their bodies. While it should be obvious that, without seeds, much of the food we eat can’t be grown, few pundits recognize a corollary to that “food rule.” Without a diversity of seeds to keep variety in our grocery stores and farmers markets, those who are most nutritionally at risk would have difficulty gaining access to a full range of vitamins, minerals, and probiotics required to keep them healthy.

However, despite what portions of the government and agribusiness don’t seem to fathom, consumer involvement in recovering access to diverse seed stocks since the economic downturn began in 2008 has been nothing short of miraculous. Some call it the “Victory Garden effect,” in that unemployed and underemployed people are spending more time tending and harvesting their own food from home orchards and community gardens than they have in previous decades. Public involvement in growing food has increased for the sixth straight year, according to the National Gardening Association. But even financially strapped gardeners are not shirking from using their limited resources to purchase quality seeds of heirloom and farmer-selected vegetables. The Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa reports that its sales of seed packets have nearly doubled over the last five years. Another non-profit focused on heirloom and wild-native seeds—Native Seeds/SEARCH of Tucson—saw its seed sales triple since the end of 2009. And there are between 300 and 400 other small seed companies supported by consumers in the U.S. that offer seeds by mail-order, by placing seed packets racks in nurseries and groceries, or via on the internet.

Nevertheless, the U.S. may now be approaching the largest shortfall in the availability of native and weed-free seed at any time in our history due to recent climate-related catastrophes scouring our croplands, pastures, and forests. While a few large corporations focus on a few varieties of corn, soy, and other commodity crops, there is unprecedented demand for diverse seeds to be used for a great variety of human and environmental uses in this country, and elsewhere.

It has become painfully clear that America needs to recruit and support a whole new cohort of dedicated women and men to manage seed growouts, nurseries, and on-farm breeding and crop selection efforts for the public good. To further evaluate crop varieties for their capacity to adapt to climate change, we will certainly need many more participants in such endeavors than a charismatic Johnny Appleseed or two. They must stand ready to harvest, grow, monitor, select, and store a diversity of seeds for a diversity of needs in advance of forthcoming catastrophes. And they must value acquiring and maintaining a diversity of seedstocks, much as a wise investor relies on a diversified investment portfolio. Diverse and adapted seeds are literally the foundation of our food security infrastructure. Without them, the rest is a house of cards.

Fortunately, courageous efforts have been initiated to rebuild America’s seed “caring capacity.” The collaborative effort known as Seeds of Success, which is part of an interagency Native Plant Materials Development Program, has trained dozens of young people at the Chicago Botanic Garden to collect seeds of hundreds of native species over the last few years. In the non-profit sector, Bill McDorman of Native Seeds/SEARCH has organized six week-long Seed Schools around the country that have trained more than 330 gardeners and farmers to be seed entrepreneurs.

Elsewhere, Daniel Bowman Simon, now a graduate student at Columbia University, has helped hundreds of low-income households (eligible for USDA Food and Nutrition Program assistance) to use their “SNAP” benefits to purchase diverse seeds and seedlings of food crops at farmers markets in order to produce not just one meal, but many. In light of recent unjustified critiques of the SNAP program during Farm Bill debates, it is surprising that fiscal conservatives did not acknowledge how providing financially strapped families with seedstock may be one of the most cost-effective means of reducing food insecurity over the long haul. It is tangibly giving the poor the “means to fish” rather than a single meal of a fish. With more than 8150 farmers markets in the U.S. today, compared to 1775 in 1994, the potential for this seed dissemination strategy to help meet the nutritional needs of the poorest of the poor has never been greater.

Regardless of whether U.S. states ever require GMO labeling or ban GMOs entirely as Mexico has done, there is abundant evidence that we need to shift public investment–from subsiding market control by just a few “silver bullet” plant varieties, whether genetically engineered or not, to supporting the rediversification of America’s farms and tables with thousands of seedstocks and fruit selections. Instead of spending a projected forty to one hundred million dollars on developing, patenting, and licensing a single GMO, perhaps we should be annually redirecting that much public support toward further replenishing the diversity found in our seed catalogs, nurseries, fields, orchards, pastures, and plates. With growing evidence of the devastating effects of climate uncertainty, now is not the time to put all of our seeds into one basket.

Photo Credit: jaroslavd

Zero Waste: How to Untrash the Planet

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Waste. We make it every single day. But how often do we think about it? It’s easy enough to throw your garbage in a trashcan and never think of it again. Out of sight, out of mind—right?

Not for long. “New research showed that the annual volume of that waste could double by 2025, thanks to growing prosperity and urbanization,” writes Paul Connett, author of The Zero Waste Solution and contributor to the documentary film Trashed. “Translation: Rather than producing 1.3 billion tons per year, as we do now, we could soon be producing 2.6 billion tons.” Soon, it will be impossible for us to avoid our own waste.

But there’s hope. Through research, case studies, and profiles, Paul Connett’s The Zero Waste Solution introduces problem-solving techniques to rid the planet of as much waste as possible by 2020. “If we lave the waste problem to itself, we are part of a nonsustainable way of living on this planet with huge consequences for human health and the global environment,” writes Connett in the Foreword. “However, with good leadership we can become part of the solution.”

Inspiring Zero Waste initiatives already exist worldwide, in places like:

  • San Francisco, CA: By 2012, they achieved 80 percent waste diverted and are continuing to move forward;
  • Austin, TX: Has plans to reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills 90 percent by 2030;
  • Sicily, Italy: This small island is playing a large role in the fight against incinerators—expensive, unsustainable, toxin-producing waste disposers; and many more.

In his latest book, Connett imagines a world in which cities, regions, and countries with zero waste initiatives were not mere case studies and hopeful examples, but the worldwide norm.

The Zero Waste Solution is for all those concerned about humanity’s health and environment, writes Academy Award-winning actor Jeremy Irons in the Foreword. “Essential reading for anyone fighting landfills, incineration, overpackaging, and the other by-products of our unthinking and irresponsible throwaway society.”

The Zero Waste Solution: Untrashing the Planet One Community at a Time is available now and on sale for 35% off until November 11th.

Read Chapter 2: Ten Steps Toward a Zero Waste Community:


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