News posts from admin's Archive


Low Maintenance Perennials for Your Garden

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

It’s Perennial Gardening Month, so what better time to be introduced to low maintenance perennials suited for gardeners of all interests and abilities. Perennials are remarkable plants that, once established, can be harvested for years, some even decades, with little effort on your part.

In his book, Perennial Vegetables, permaculture and plants expert Eric Toensmeier profiles more than 100 of the best veggies you can plant to help turn your landscape into an edible Eden. In the excerpt below, Toensmeier provides an overview of a couple key plants to consider growing in your backyard.

Meet the tender perennial goldenberry and the self-seeding annual ground cherry. Their unique flavor is sweet, slightly nutty, reminiscent of a tomato, and a bit musky—the perfect addition to any gardener’s table.

Happy perennial planting!

Ground Cherry and Goldenberry by Chelsea Green Publishing

Lies, Damned Lies, and Fracking

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Peak oil? Bah! Fracking will save us and keep us energy independent for centuries – right? Wrong.

In Snake Oil: How Fracking’s False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future — now available through Chelsea Green — Post Carbon Institute’s senior fellow Richard Heinberg explains in detail how and why the oil and gas industry – aided and abetted by allies in the government and on Wall Street – are selling us a pack of lies when it comes to the promise of fracking.

Heinberg systematically debunks the snake oil sales pitches to provide readers, and anti-fracking activists, the real information they need – along with critical arguments to combat industry lies.

Stitching together proprietary industry data and years of his own research, Snake Oil tells the story about shale gas wells that cost more to drill than their gas is worth at current prices; Wall Street investment banks driving independent oil and gas companies to produce uneconomic resources just so brokers can collect fees; and official agencies that have overestimated oil production and underestimated prices consistently for the past decade.

Heinberg also relates stories gathered from people who live close to the nation’s thousands of fracked oil and gas wells—a tale of how drinking water, air, soil, livestock, and wildlife are poisoned or degraded; how companies fail to pay agreed lease fees; how property values actually decline; and how neighbor turned against neighbor.

In Snake Oil, you’ll find out why:

  • The oil and gas industry’s recent unexpected successes will prove to be short-lived, far shorter than we’ve been led to believe.
  • Their actual, long-term significance has been overstated because they are often double counting, or counting reserves that are too expensive to access given current technology.
  • New unconventional sources of oil and gas production come with hidden costs (both monetary and environmental) that society cannot support in the long-term, and maybe not the short-term.

Heinberg’s chief conclusion and observation is that the oil and gas industry’s exaggerations of future supply have been motivated by short-term financial self-interest, and, to the extent that they influence national energy policy, they are a disaster for America and for future generations.

Previously, Chelsea Green Publishing and Post Carbon Institute combined forces to produce the Community Resilience Guide series — three books that examined how to relocalize food, monetary, and energy systems. Despite the stranglehold that multinational corporations have on these three resources, there are local solutions that you, and your community, can use to become more sustainable and resilient for years to come.

 

Permaculture Q&A: Month in Review

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Throughout May, in honor of Permaculture Month, our authors were on call to answer permaculture related questions submitted by our readers. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Here’s a recap of all of our author responses. We hope this information and advice inspires you to get your hands dirty and use the principles of permaculture design in your own backyard.

Permaculture Q&A Series

 


Ben Falk, author of The Resilient Farm and Homestead, talks about the importance of harvesting and cycling nutrients. Read more …


Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia’s Garden, talks about soil structure and explains how permaculture is based on the replication of patterns found in nature. Read more …


Eric Toensmeier, author of Paradise LotPerennial Vegetables and co-author of Edible Forest Gardens, discusses how to handle invasive grasses and the best plants for shady spots. Read more …


Toby Hemenway(Gaia’s Garden) and Eric Toensmeier (Paradise LotPerennial Vegetables) discuss the business side of permaculture. Read more …


Michael Judd,author of Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist, reveals his special recipe for blueberry soil mix that imitates the plant’s natural forest edge habitat. Read more …


Wayne Weiseman, co-author of Integrated Forest Gardening, explains what swales are and what questions to ask to determine if they are right for your landscape. Read more …


Daniel Halsey and Bryce Ruddock, co-authors of Integrated Forest Gardening, discuss the research they and others have done on plant guilds and how to implement these guilds based on differing water requirements. Read more …

 

Get Hip to Hemp: It’s Hemp History Week

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

It’s that time of year again — Hemp History Week. A time when we hemp enthusiasts celebrate this versatile crop that has been kept from being planted in U.S. farm fields due to an outdated and misguided Federal policy – created in the 1930s.

Ah, but change is in the air this 5th annual Hemp History Week. The federal Farm Bill signed into law earlier this year will allow hemp crops to be planted for the first time in more than a half century. Well, sort of. The crops must be for research only, not commercial, and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency has to allow seeds to be imported.

One step forward …

Here at Chelsea Green Publishing – now in our 30th year as a book publisher – we are proud to be a supporter of this year’s Hemp History Week. We published our first book about hemp in 1997 (Nutiva founder John Roulac’s book, Hemp Horizons).

We returned to the promise of hemp — environmentally, agriculturally, and economically — with investigative journalist and goat farmer Doug Fine and the publication of Hemp Bound: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution. In this book, Fine introduces readers to a variety of innovative hemp applications from riding in a hemp-powered limo to testing hemp-based building insulation.

Join Hemp History Week

To learn more about Doug’s book and just how hemp could be the next billion-dollar plant that’s going to change our diet, restore our soil and wean us from petroleum, check out this post. And, test your hemp history knowledge with this Hemp Quiz. To find a Hemp History Week event near you, check out Hemp History Week’s event page.

Fine kicked off Hemp History Week with a Q&A as part of the Firedoglake Book Salon, and we’re hosting a Hemp History Week Book Club on Wednesday. RSVP here and get a discounted copy of Fine’s book and join the hemp revolution.

Hemp History Week (June 2-8, 2014) is an industry-wide education initiative of the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and Vote Hemp designed to amplify support for hemp farming in the U.S.

Check out this video – “It’s Time to Grow” — from our friends at Hemp History Week.

 

Permaculture Q&A: Plant Guild Research and Development

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

As Permaculture Month comes to an end, we wanted to share some final questions posed to our permaculture authors from our readers. Today, Daniel Halsey and Bryce Ruddock, authors of Integrated Forest Gardening, discuss the research they and others have done on plant guilds and how to implement these guilds based on differing water requirements.

For answers to questions about soil preparation, design patterns, swales and more, browse these previous posts from the “Permaculture Q&A” series:
Are Swales Right For You?
Michael Judd’s Blueberry Soil Mix
Permaculture: An Economic Perspective
Eric Toensmeier on Aggressive Grass and Partial Shade
Toby Hemenway on Soil and Natural Patterns
Ben Falk Talks Nutrient Cycling

Michelle from IL asks:
How much formal research, if any, has been done on guilds to understand how they work and why they work?

DANIEL HALSEY: Formal research about plant guilds requires a literature review of many studies that in aggregate contribute to the knowledge of how plants interact with each other and support or deter each other’s growth. We must also define what a plant guild is. That and the assembly of guilds has been the focus of our book, Integrated Forest Gardening.

A plant, like insects, animals, and fish has a number of guilds. An insect for example has a predator guild including all the other insects that eat it. The plant will have a herbivore guild consisting of the group of insects or animals that eat it.

When we talk about an apple tree guild, we are referring to all the plants we use in the guild to support the apple tree. When we assemble these apple tree guilds, we can choose from many plants, but the needs of the apple tree ecology is what we are trying to fulfill. Thus we surround the apple tree with nitrogen fixtures, nutrient accumulators, aromatic pest confusers, soil builders, and hopefully beneficial insects and organisms. Each group of ecological functions and services provided by plants are also guilds, because they supply the same service. So you choose from a nitrogen fixing guild, a beneficial habitat guild, and soil cultivator guild. The word in front of “guild” describes what kind of guild it is.

As far as the efficacy of plant guilds, the research has been done by numerous and well-known individuals focusing on a specific ecological function or service. Much of the strategy has come from years of observation, study, and written in books by Robert Hart, Bill Mollison, Patrick Whitefield, and Dave Jacke. You can also read books by Dr. Elaine Ingham to find out about soil life and the interactions and importance of soil organisms to plants, among many other researchers.

On the other hand, some of the research articles can also be quite specific, but applicable, such as with Dr. Nicholas Jordan (University of Minnesota) who has researched canadian wild rye and its facilitation in restoring soil organism populations in agricultural fields and entomologist Dr. George Heimpel.

Many times when you are looking to find a definitive answer to a question, the pieces to the puzzle come from many different boxes. We tried to assemble those pieces in our book Integrated Forest Gardening: The Complete Guide to Polycultures and Plant Guilds in Permaculture Systems.

Anna from New Mexico asks:
Dry climate in high altitude. There are some areas where I can collect more run off in my yard than others. For my food forest, would it be a good idea to plant low water together and those [plants] that need more [water] in the places I can collect more gentle rain run off? Or would it be better to mix them so something grows and then add the more needy plantings into an already existing planting? … I am having difficulty figuring out the guild things. Does it matter what I put together just as long as they complement in space/time and need?

BRYCE RUDDOCK: Setting up plant guilds based upon differing water requirements can allow you to use the micro niches on your property, the places where slight differences in soil type and drainage present the most challenges. These are of course the edges between areas where you have been collecting and infiltrating water, building a humus layer in the soil, and those places with stony and drier soils nearby.

Mixing the species together may work so long as more drought resilient plants are kept from getting soggy feet, which is probably not too likely in the high desert. Each guild should fade into the next so that rather than separate pockets of plant species, an uninterrupted progression of plants of different needs and yields will result. Of course, if the sites are widely separated, then the edge areas of interaction between the guilds are larger.

As a canopy species fills in with a crown of leaves and gains mature height it will result in more shade naturally, and some modifications to the design will occur either naturally, or by design. Many of the understory plants can thrive in varying regimes of light levels, from full sun to partial shade. Many of them will benefit from some shade during the hottest times of the year, during the afternoon hours when the heat is intense. A few species such as strawberries have cultivars and subspecies specific to different sunlight levels.

A major consideration in selecting plant guild species is how appropriate they are for the site. For dry land guilds, there are many species adapted over millenia by indigenous peoples that can fill the list of plants that will survive and are useful for human and animal needs. Too often a guild can be set up with species that are marginal for a site.  By working on building organic matter in the soil and enabling the growth of beneficial fungal, you can expand the choices of species that will work well in a guild. In the end, only you can decide which guild components are best for you. Follow the guidelines from permaculture and be ready to improvise according to your needs.

Integrated Forest Gardening and all of our permaculture titles are on sale for 35% off. Act now! Sale ends June 1.

Permaculture Special: Last Chance!

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

This is it. Your last chance to reap the savings on all of our permaculture books. But hurry – sale ends June 1st.

By adding a permaculture twist to your garden design you can spend less effort, improve the health of your soil, and enjoy a bountiful harvest.

Chelsea Green has been the go-to publisher for key home-scale permaculture books for thirty years. Learn more about this simple but revolutionary system with these groundbreaking books—on sale for a limited time.

Happy reading from your friends at Chelsea Green Publishing.

P.S. In case you missed it for the month of May we put our pioneering permaculture authors at your disposal. Take a peek at the last Q&A posts here: Are Swales Right for You; Michael Judd’s Blueberry Soil Mix; and Eric Toensmeier on Aggressive Grass and Partial Shade.


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)
Permaculture Sale: until June 1st

 

The Resilient Farm and Homestead
Retail: $40.00
Sale: $26.00
Edible Perennial Gardening
Retail: $22.95
Sale: $14.92
Integrated Forest Gardening
Retail: $45.00
Sale: $29.25
Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set)
Retail: $150.00
Sale: $97.50
Gaia's Garden, 2nd Edition
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
Paradise Lot
Retail: $19.95
Sale: $12.97
The Permaculture Kitchen
Retail: $22.95
Sale: $14.92
Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Sepp Holzer's Permaculture
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Grass, Soil, Hope
Retail: $19.95
Sale: $12.97
Perennial Vegetables Set
Retail: $35.00
Sale: $22.75
Edible Cities
Retail: $22.95
Sale: $14.92
Food Not Lawns
Retail: $25.00
Sale: $16.25
The Small-Scale Poultry Flock
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $25.97
The Holistic Orchard
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $25.97
Top-Bar Beekeeping
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
Natural Beekeeping, Revised and Expanded
Retail: $34.95
Sale: $22.72
Permaculture in Pots
Retail: $14.95
Sale: $9.72
Letting in the Wild Edges
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
Earth User's Guide to Teaching Permaculture
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Sowing Seeds in the Desert
Retail: $15.95
Sale: $10.37
Outdoor Classrooms
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
The Earth User's Guide to Permaculture
Retail: $37.95
Sale: $24.67
People & Permaculture
Retail: $34.95
Sale: $22.72
The Basics of Permaculture Design
Retail: $25.00
Sale: $16.25
Desert or Paradise
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
The Woodland Way
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Vol. 1
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Vol. 2
Retail: $39.95
Sale: $25.97
Permaculture
Retail: $30.00
Sale: $19.50
Permaculture Pioneers
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
The Permaculture Way
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
The Earth Care Manual
Retail: $75.00
Sale: $48.75
The Permaculture Garden
Retail: $25.00
Sale: $16.25
The Uses of Wild Plants
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
How to Make a Forest Garden
Retail: $30.00
Sale: $19.50
Permaculture Plants
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Permaculture Design
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
Permaculture in a Nutshell
Retail: $12.95
Sale: $8.42
Getting Started in Permaculture
Retail: $14.95
Sale: $9.72
Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally
Retail: $49.95
Sale: $32.47
Holistic Orchard with Michael Phillips
Retail: $49.95
Sale: $32.47
Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier
Retail: $29.95
Sale: $19.47
Natural Beekeeping with Ross Conrad
Retail: $24.95
Sale: $16.22
Top-Bar Beekeeping with Les Crowder and Heather Harrell
Retail: $14.95
Sale: $9.72

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)

Mother Earth News Fair – May 31 & June 1

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Fair season is here — Mother Earth News Fair season that is! If you’re a homesteader, small-farmer, or gardener, you need to check out the Mother Earth News Fair near you.

If you live within a quick drive to Seattle, you’re in luck. Because the next Mother Earth News Fair is in Puyallup, WA on May 31 and June 1.

From speakers and workshops to vendors and livestock breeders, the Mother Earth News Fairs draw thousands of sustainability-minded, curious, self-reliant folks together for a full weekend of workshops, lectures, and hands-on presentations at the sprawling Puyallup fairgrounds. And of course, a full slate of Chelsea Green authors will be among the presenters.

The following authors will be leading workshops and giving keynote speeches in Puyallup:

Saturday, May 31
Doug Fine — workshop

  • 1:00 PM, Modern Homesteading Stage: Hemp Returns to Humanity.

Gianaclis Caldwell- 2 workshops

  • 2:30-3:30 PM, Real Food Stage: One Pot, One Gallon, One Hour Lasagna Cheese.
  • 5:30-6:30 PM, Real Food Stage: Yogurt: Marvels and Making.

Sunday, June 1

Joel Salatin — Keynote

  • 9:30AM, Mother Earth News Stage: Live Poultry Demo.
  • 4:00 PM, Mother Earth News Stage: Heretics Unite.

Gianaclis Caldwell — workshop

  • 11:30 AM, Real Food Stage: Raw Milk Production- Doing it Right.

Rebecca Thistlethwaite — workshop:

  • 11:30AM, Modern Homesteading Stage: From Hobby to Business: How to transform your farming hobby into a right livelihood

Toby Hemenway — Keynote

  • 2:30-3:30- Mother Earth News Stage: Agriculture, Horticulture, Permaculture: How a society based on gardens rather than farms offers a sustainable future.

Visit Chelsea Green at Booth #818-820 (right outside the Mother Earth News Fair Bookstore) for special deals, giveaways, book discounts, and to meet our authors face-to-face. Communications Director Shay Totten will be there to answer questions, talk about our books coming out later this year, and hold regular raffles where you could walk away with a Chelsea Green book … free!

We’ll also have hemp treats in advance of Hemp History Week, which begins June 2 and ends June 8.

See you at the Fair!

For the full line-up, download the Fair schedule here.

Permaculture Q&A: Are Swales Right For You?

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Next up in the Permaculture Q&A series, where we pose questions from our readers to our authors, Wayne Weiseman, co-author of Integrated Forest Gardening, talks about swales. Wondering what a swale is?

Read on to learn more about these water harvesting ditches and what questions to ask to determine if they are right for your landscape.

For more detailed information about permaculture plant guilds, including techniques for designing swales, check out Weiseman’s recently released book which he co-wrote with authors Daniel Halsey and Bryce RuddockIntegrated Forest Gardening: The Complete Guide to Polycultures and Plant Guilds in Permaculture Systems. It’s on sale now along with all of our permaculture titles for 35% off, until June 1.

And, browse these previous posts from the “Permaculture Q&A” series for answers to questions about soil preparation, design patterns, invasive grasses, and more:
Michael Judd’s Blueberry Soil Mix
Permaculture: An Economic Perspective
Eric Toensmeier on Aggressive Grass and Partial Shade
Toby Hemenway on Soil and Natural Patterns
Ben Falk Talks Nutrient Cycling

Kelly from AZ asks:
If you are not going to alley crop an area, how close would you build your swales from one another?

WAYNE WEISEMAN: A swale is a dead level ditch on contour. Contour lines are depicted on topographical maps at specific intervals and they delineate not only these dead level lines but also give us indication of where ridges and valleys have formed over geological time. Swales lie perpendicular (at right angles) to the slope and pick up all water moving downslope (by force of gravity), hold it, and percolate it into the soil profile slowly. Typically we begin our planting regimes downslope from the swale so that our young plants have the advantage of this slow percolation of water and the mechanism of capillary action through the soil pores. The small feeder roots on our plants now have the utmost opportunity to drink and take in minerals from the soil in solution.

There are many variables when it comes to designing a swale into a property. The first questions to ask are whether swales are applicable based on soil type, climate, rainfall averages and slope. But even before this, it is important to observe these aspects of place over a long period and begin to understand the patterns that present themselves from as many perspectives as possible, and especially during large rain events. We need to understand from which direction the water enters the property, how it flows through the property, and where it leaves it.

Additional key questions include: What will be planted on the berm and in the swale and up and down slope from them? In what part of the country is this land? What is the macroclimate of the region? What are the goals and vision of the owners? Is this simply a homestead where production will be meant only for the family or is this a market farm? How much planning has already been done and what has already been implemented on the property? Has there been insight as to how the entire infrastructure will be laid out? Why swales when there are many techniques in order to create redundancy in our water collection strategies: keyline, cisterns, ponds and other surface catchments, etc.

Swales are simply one of many tools utilized in order to slow water down and hold it in place so that plants have the needed time and resource to grow and thrive. As we hold water on a property we also hold topsoil. These two, water and soil, are our major concerns, and without cognizance of these two most important elements we cannot take the proper steps in order to find sustenance through our gardening or farming practice.

Remember, swales are one part of a comprehensive plan and permaculture is all about comprehensive planning. We start from the whole and move to the parts. Based on our ethics and basic principles and methodologies we work backward from the whole and configure what is needed to meet our vision and goals. If swales are applicable, then by all means we have to make sure that we do our due diligence and factor in all the variables for success. The question about distance of swales is a bit premature. Good design is predicated on rigorous observation and thoughtful design.

 

How to Cook the Perfect, Tender, Grass Fed Steak

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Today is Memorial Day, one of America’s first “BBQ Holidays” of the year. It’s finally warm enough to grill outside in most of the country, and almost everyone has the day off to bask in the glory of the coming summer.

Treat your tastebuds to an ethical feast: grill up some grass fed steak this year! You’ll probably pay a little more for your t-bones, but you’ll be supporting small-scale farmers and those who use the most planet-friendly methods of raising livestock possible. In fact, if you support truly well-managed grass fed beef farmers, you don’t need to feel guilty at all. After all, haven’t you heard that cows can save the planet? It’s true…

But in the meantime, you probably need some pointers on how to treat your premium, pasture-raised porterhouse cuts or filet mignons. Grass fed beef is a different animal than your bargain-priced grocery store steak.

Here to help you cook it to perfection is farmer and cookbook author Shannon Hayes. Check out her books Long Way on a Little, and The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook for more amazing recipes.

By Shannon Hayes

The simplest, most commonly heard distinction made between grassfed and factory-farmed meat is that grassfed is leaner. As we’ve just seen, that is not always the case. The real difference lies in the fact that, by virtue of a beef animal’s active and healthy life, there is true muscle integrity in the meat. This is wildly different from the feedlot animals, which get little or no exercise, resulting in more flaccid (and, hence less flavorful) cuts. This does not mean that grassfed steaks are less tender - on the contrary. Cooked more gently, grassfed meat is wonderfully tender. The healthy muscle texture does, however, mean that grassfed steaks will be more variable than grainfed meats. Taste and texture of steaks will vary based on breed, farming practices, pastures, and individual animal characteristics. Thus, the trick to cooking a delicious steak is to work with the variability and take advantage of that beautiful muscle quality.

We should be treating this meat as “tenderly” in the kitchen or on the grill as the farmers treated the animals in the fields. When cooking a grassfed steak, we want to achieve a delicious sear that creates a pleasant light crust on the exterior of the meat, then allow it to finish cooking at a much lower temperature; this allows the naturally-occurring sugars to caramelize on the surface, while protecting those muscle fibers from contracting too quickly. Tough grassfed steaks result from over-exposure to high heat, which causes the muscle fibers to contract tightly and become chewy and overly dry.

Keeping these principles in mind, below are two techniques for cooking a fantastic steak, using the same seasonings. The first technique, taken from The Farmer and the Grill, is for working outdoors with open flames, my preferred method, YEAR ROUND. If you plan on winter grilling, be sure to check out the list of tips for safe winter grilling that appear at the end of this article.

The second technique is taken from my newest cookbook, Long Way on a Little: An Earth Lovers’ Companion for Enjoying Meat, Pinching Pennies and Living Deliciously. Much to my surprise, not every family on the North American continent has access to an outdoor grill – hard to believe! Thus, in an effort to include you in the thrill that comes from eating the best-tasting steak available, I’ve included an indoor steak recipe that guarantees your grassfed meat will remain tender and juicy. Enjoy!

THE BEST STEAK – OUTDOORS

Recipe adapted from Farmer and the Grill: A Guide to Grilling, Barbecuing and Spit-Roasting Grassfed Meat…and for saving the planet, one bite at a time, by Shannon Hayes

(The amount of seasoning you will use will vary based on the size of your steak. If it is close to one pound, use less. If it is closer to 2 pounds, use more.)

  • 1-2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Either 1 sirloin, sirloin tip, tri-tip, top round or London Broil, rib eye, porterhouse, t-bone, top loin (NY Strip) or tenderloin (filet mignon) steak. Steaks should be at least 1 ¼ – 1 ½ inches thick.

Combine the salt, pepper and garlic in a small bowl. Rub the mixture into both sides of the steak, then allow the meat to come to room temperature while you prepare the grill.

Start the grill and warm it until it is hot. If you are using a gas grill, turn off all but one of the burners once it has come up to temperature. If you are using charcoal, be sure all the coals have been raked to one side. Use the hand test: the grate will be hot enough when you can hold your palm 3-4 inches above the metal for no more than three seconds.

Sear the steaks for 2-3 minutes on each side directly over the flame, with the lid down. Then, move the steaks to the part of grill that is not lit. Set the lid in place and allow the steaks to cook, without flipping them, until they reach 120-135 degrees**, about 10-20 minutes, depending on the size of the steak. Remove the steaks to a platter and allow them to rest a few minutes before serving.

THE BEST STEAK – INDOORS

Recipe taken from Long Way on a Little: An Earth Lovers’ Companion for Enjoying Meat, Pinching Pennies and Living Deliciously, by Shannon Hayes

(The amount of seasoning you will use will vary based on the size of your steak. If it is close to one pound, use less. If it is closer to 2 pounds, use more.)

  • 1-2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter, tallow or rendered lamb fat
  • Either 1 sirloin, sirloin tip, tri-tip, top round or London Broil, rib eye, porterhouse, t-bone, top loin (NY Strip) or tenderloin (filet mignon) steak. Steaks should be at least 1 ¼ – 1 ½ inches thick.

Combine the salt, pepper and garlic in a small bowl. Rub the mixture into both sides of the steak then allow the meat to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, then heat a large cast iron skillet or other oven-proof skillet over a high flame. Once the skillet is so hot that you can see a little smoke rising off of it, add the butter or fat. Sear the steak for two minutes on each side. Turn off the flame, and insert an instant-read meat thermometer into the boneless edge of the steak – do not insert it into the top, as there is not enough thickness for the thermometer to take an accurate reading. Leaving the steak in the skillet, place it in the oven and allow it to finish cooking, about 10-20 minutes depending on the size of the cut, until the internal temperature reads 120-135 degrees.** Allow the meat to rest five minutes before carving and serving.

**Weren’t aware that grassfed meats have different internal doneness temps than grainfed? Get a handy magnetic grassfed temperature guide, the Don’t Overdo It Magnet, from grassfedcooking.com. They’re inexpensive, and you can feel good about them, because they are made by a small, locally owned factory in my community.

WINTER GRILLING TIPS

Yes, the indoor method described above is terrific. The meat is super-tender and juicy. But I prefer to season with a little smoke and flame. Thus, I’ve become one of those hard-core advocates of year-round grilling. If you are new to the idea, here are a few tips to get you started.

  1. Choose a safe place for grilling outdoors. The garage may not be your best bet, since it probably contains a few explosives, such as cans of gas, or lawn mowers, chainsaws or other vehicles that contain gasoline. I actually have a screened-in porch with a brick floor that shelters me for winter grilling. That’s a little more deluxe than most folks have – just try to choose a sheltered spot that isn’t too close to your house.
  2. Keep the path to your grill site, and the area around it, free of snow and ice. It would be deeply annoying to ruin a perfectly good dinner because of a last-minute trip to the emergency room.
  3. Dress wisely. I find that my charcoal throws up a lot more sparks in the winter…or perhaps I’ve just noticed them more, because I’ve made the stupid mistake on occasion of wearing drapey and flammable garments, such as winter scarves, out to the coals. Learn from my experience, and don’t make the same stupid mistake.
  4. Limit your grilling repertoire. It’s cold out. Barbecuing is a culinary tradition from the warm south. Unless you have some pretty sophisticated equipment, and are some kind of BBQ Macho-Man (you know who you are), smoking and barbecuing are best relegated to summertime pleasures. Stick to the steaks, burgers and chops. They minimize the trips out to the grill, keeping the cold out of your house and out of your bones.
  5. Allow extra heat-up and cook times. Extreme outdoor temperatures will affect the warm-up and cooking time of your grill. To accommodate for this, always grill with the lid down, and monitor the internal temperature of your meat with an instant-read meat thermometer. If you are considering buying a gas grill and you plan to use it through the winter, buy the highest BTU rating you can afford. The cold truly slows the heat-up process. Also, high BTUs often accompany higher quality grills, which will do a better job holding in the heat during the winter months. If you are on a budget (like me) or just prefer the flavor (like me), a simple little Weber charcoal kettle will work beautifully for outdoor winter grilling (no, I do not work for them).
    Winter grilling is much easier if you are working with the ecologically responsible charwood (available in many hardware or natural food stores) because it is much easier to light, and it quickly gets a lot hotter than composite briquettes. I find that, with the exception of the most extreme weather conditions, I can keep to my normal cook times by simply using a few more coals in the fire. The bonus is that charwood is better for the planet.

    For more tips on ecologically responsible grilling, check out my book,
    The Farmer and the Grill: A Guide to Grilling, Barbecuing and Spit-Roasting Grassfed Meat…And for saving the planet, one bite at a time. 

Shannon Hayes is the host of grassfedcooking.com and radicalhomemakers.com. She is the author of Radical Homemakers, Farmer and the Grill, and The Grassfed Gourmet. Hayes works with her family producing grassfed and pastured meats on Sap Bush Hollow Farm in Upstate New York.

Permaculture Q&A: Michael Judd’s Blueberry Soil Mix

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

As Permaculture Month continues throughout May, some of our expert authors are answering questions submitted by our readers. Here, Michael Judd reveals his special recipe for blueberry soil mix that imitates the plant’s natural forest edge habitat.

For more do-it-yourself projects to turn your landscape into a luscious and productive edible Eden, check out Judd’s book, Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist. Now is a good time to purchase as all of our permaculture titles are on on sale for 35% off until June 1.

And, browse these previous posts from the “Permaculture Q&A” series for answers to questions about design patterns, nutrients, invasive grasses, and more:
Permaculture: An Economic Perspective
Eric Toensmeier on Aggressive Grass and Partial Shade
Toby Hemenway on Soil and Natural Patterns
Ben Falk Talks Nutrient Cycling

Danielle from WA asks:
I planted four blueberries bushes last year. They got a lot rain, so I did not water them for a few weeks, but now I see a few of them are brown. These bushes get lots of sun. Any thoughts on how to stop the browning?

MICHAEL JUDD: Hi Danielle, challenges with blueberries generally stem from the soil prep and pH. Blueberries are naturally a forest edge species which means that they like a very rich and loose soil that comes from a leafy compost-like medium. This is usually imitated with peat or sphagnum moss mixed with compost and soil, but I try to avoid pulling material from distant ecosystems, especially sensitive bog areas where peat comes from, and instead create my own blueberry soil mix. My recipe is 50% fine pine bark, 25% compost, and 25% top soil with sulfur pellets mixed in to lower the pH to 4.5-5.5. Mix them well into a generous sized hole before planting the blueberry. Mulch well with a pine bark mulch for the added long term acidity and moisture retention. Blueberries are shallow rooted so keep the mulch on and other plants/weeds away from their base and be mindful to not water with a strong stream that knocks the mulch and soil away exposing the roots.

Though blueberries are generally disease resistant they benefit from good air flow, full sun and spacing. If you make the soil balanced your plants should be healthy.

Hope that helps. Happy fruiting!


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