Food & Health Archive


New Books from our Publishing Partners

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Changing the world is no light undertaking. It takes a village to spread the word about sustainable living, and at Chelsea Green Publishing we partner with like-minded publishers and writers around the world to bring their books to a wider readership in the United States.

One of our strongest partnerships is with Permanent Publications, a forward thinking publisher in the UK that produces the best of permaculture media and publishes the influential Permaculture magazine.

Here’s an update on our latest selection of books available from Permanent Publications:

 

Permaculture Kitchen- This is a cookbook for gardeners who love to eat their own produce, and for people who enjoy a weekly veggies box, or supporting their local farmers’ market. It’s the ultimate introduction to economical, seasonal, and delicious cooking.

Edible Perennial Gardening- If you long for a forest garden but simply don’t have the space for tree crops, or want to grow a low-maintenance edible polyculture, this book will explain everything you need to know to get started on a new gardening adventure that will provide you with beauty and food for your household and save you money.

Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture- This completely revised and updated edition is a straight-forward manual of practical permaculture. This book will be most beneficial if you apply it to the space where you live and work. Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture is suitable for beginners as well as experienced permaculture practitioners looking for new ideas in moving towards greater self-reliance and sustainable living.

Earth Users Guide to Teaching Permaculture- This fully revised and updated edition contains a wealth of technical information for teaching permaculture design and includes new findings in emerging disciplines such as regenerative agriculture. The Earth’s Guide to Teaching Permaculture is of key relevance to teachers and students of architecture, landscape design, ecology, and other disciplines like geography, regenerative agriculture, agro-ecology, and agroforestry, as well as permaculture design. With advice on teaching aids, topics for class discussion, extensive reading lists, and tips on teaching adults, this book is bound to be an invaluable friend to the experienced and novice teacher alike.

And from one of our other long-time partners, Slow Food Editore, check out Slow Wine 2014.

For the third year running, Slow Food International offers an English-language edition of their guide to Italian wines whose qualities extend well beyond the palate. Slow Wine 2014 doesn’t simply select and review Italy’s finest bottles. It describes what’s in the glass, but it also tells you what’s behind it: namely the work, the aims, and the passion of producers; their bond with the land; and their choice of cultivation and cellar techniques—favoring the ones who implement ecologically sustainable winegrowing and winemaking practices.

 

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)

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.

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!

RECIPE: Maple Mushroom Martini

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Permaculture designer and author Michael Judd gets really excited about mushrooms. So when he found this recipe for a mushroom infused cocktail, he was barely able to contain himself. It may sound strange, but Judd swears this sweet mushroomy cocktail is magically delicious.

The following recipe is an excerpt from Judd’s Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture TwistIn addition to a few tasty treats, this book takes readers on a step-by-step process to transform a sea of grass into a flourishing edible landscape that pleases the eye as well as the taste buds.

For another type of homemade hooch, try this dandelion wine recipe from Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz.

Cheers!

Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist: Maple Mushroom Martini by Chelsea Green Publishing

Food Justice: What it Means and Why We Need it

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

By Elizabeth Henderson, longtime sustainable agtivist, Chelsea Green author (Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture), Farmer at Peacework Organic Farm and co-Founder of the Agriculture Justice Project.

I come to my understanding of Food Justice from the perspective of my life as an organic farmer since 1980. Access for inner city and low-income people to healthy, clean, nutritious food is what you hear about most in news about food justice. According to USDA Economic Research Service in its annual report for 2012 on food security – nationally 48.9 million people live in households that are food insecure. In NYS 13.2% of all households are food insecure and 5% suffered “very low food security,” with more severe problems, deeper hunger, cutting back and skipping meals on a regular basis for both adults and children. 21.6% of all children live in food insecure households. Despite these distressing statistics, both houses of Congress agreed to cut the funding for nutrition programs in the Farm Bill of 2014.

Three Aspects of Food Justice:

  • Access to healthy, locally grow, fresh, culturally appropriate food
  • Living wage jobs for all food system workers – farmers, farmworkers, restaurant, food service, processing plant. . .
  • Community Control through cooperatives, faith-based initiatives, community organizations

In Central/Western NY, where we have rich soils and many extremely productive farms as well as gardens, there is no shortage of food.  Hunger comes from poverty.

Every bit as crucial as food access is just treatment and living wages for the people who grow, wash, cook, transport and sell our food.  Over 17% of the jobs in this country are food related.  If everyone who touched food (including both farm workers and farmers) made enough money to pay for high quality food out of their wages, our food system would be on its way to greater fairness and long-term economic viability.

Race Gender Wage Gap

Our society as a whole looks down on jobs that get people dirty.

Vocational studies are for youngsters who do poorly at academic courses. We call picking vegetables “stoop labor,” and the majority of the people who do this work are undocumented migrant farm workers whose average annual wages amount to less than $13,000 a year, according to the United Farm Workers. NYS law requires farmers to pay hired workers minimum wage, soon to rise to $9.00 an hour, and federal law requires paying legal H2A “guest workers” $9.60 an hour, but there is no requirement for time and a half for work over 40 hours a week, and even if you work 60 hours a week year round, minimum wage is poverty pay.

And there is no protection for farm workers who want to organize.

The National Labor Relations Act excludes two groups of workers – farm workers and domestics. Farm workers are not covered by the limited protections afforded to other workers by the National Labor Relations Act, particularly the right to form unions that is so much under attack these days. And protections for farmers in negotiating contracts with buyers are lacking too. The reality is that both family-scale farmers as well as farm workers in this country are in desperate need of fair trade.

Farmers Share Retail

My work as a farmer has largely focused on developing the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model as a way to ensure a decent living for family-scale farmers based on a fair contract with the people who join the CSA and agree to share the risks with the farmers. We started Peacework, the first CSA in western NY, during the winter of 1988-89. This season is our 26th. My involvement led to writing Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture (Chelsea Green, 2007) which tells our story based on interviews with hundreds of CSA farmers and organizers.

Members and farmers harvest greens together early in the season at Peacework Farm.

Peace work Farm

An aerial view of Peacework Farm, Welcher Road, Newark, New York

What the CSA model offers is a steady source of revenue and the chance to negotiate with your customers (buyers) to get a fair deal – pricing that covers the farmer’s full costs and pays the farmer a wage and even benefits such as health coverage or a pension fund. That is not profit – but it is a lot better than most ag deals or we would not have lost 4 1/2 million farms since I was born.

Carlos Petrini, founder of Slow Food, points out that farmers and their customers share a common fate. Petrini calls for food that is “good, clean and fair” and urges consumers to become “co-producers” with their farmers. Direct sales through farmers markets, on farm markets but especially CSA gives us the opportunity to transform the relationship between farmers and consumers. By sharing the risks of farming, consumers become co-producers in Petrini’s sense.

But what about food that you purchase in a store, restaurant or food service?How can you influence fairness in mainstream markets?

I have been representing the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) in an effort to answer this question by creating a social justice labeling program: Food Justice Certification. A sprinkling of farms and businesses has already been certified in Canada, Oregon, the Upper Midwest and Florida. In January, Swanton Berry Farm and Pie Ranch became the first farms to be Food Justice Certified in California. And in April, the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP) will announce the first three certifications in New York State – West Haven Farm, Green Star Coop and The Piggery Eatery and Butcher Shop, all in Ithaca.

Food Justice Certified

AJP is a program jointly sponsored by four not-for-profits that work on behalf of farmers and farm workers. Since 1999, NOFA, CATA (the Farmworker Support Committee, Comite de apoyo a los trabajadores agricolas), Florida Organic Growers and Consumers (FOG) and Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA), have been engaged in a stakeholder process to write standards for fairness in the food system.

The program is designed for all agricultural production systems, fiber, and cosmetics, as well as food. Candidates must meet high bar standards that have been negotiated among food system stakeholders including both farmers and farm workers.

The standards (which can apply to farms, buyers, distributors, processors and retailers—every link in the supply chain from farm to table) include:

  • Fair pricing for farmers
  • Fair wages and treatment of workers
  • Safe working conditions
  • Fair and equitable contracts for farmers and buyers
  • Workers’ and farmers’ right to freedom of association and collective bargaining
  • Clear conflict resolution policies for all throughout the food chain
  • Clean and safe farmworker housing
  • Learning contracts for Interns and apprentices
  • A ban on full-time child labor together with full protection for children on farms
  • Environmental stewardship through organic certification

The goal is to change relationships so that everyone benefits. More information, including contact information, is available at: www.agriculturaljusticeproject.org

By purchasing food with this label, consumers will ensure that farmers receive a fair percentage of the “food dollar”, allowing for a stable and dignified life for the farm family. Farmworkers will receive a living wage, and be able to adequately provide for themselves and their families. And the broader community will develop a bond with those who work the land, support the economic well-being of farmers and farmworkers, and gain access to food produced in accordance with their principles and ethics.

Such a model would be one concrete step in progressing toward a more sustainable food system, in which, as stated in the principles of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements, the “entire production, processing and distribution chain [would be] both socially just and ecologically responsible.” In this alternate vision, farm work would be valued by the larger society in direct proportion to the importance of food in peoples’ lives, thereby allowing family farmers to remain on the land, and farmworkers and their families to live a full and healthy life.

If we are to have a local food system that reliably provides most of the food needs for the population of our region, we must shift our spending priorities. The people who grow our food, farmers and farm workers, must get a fair share so that they can go on producing and lead decent lives. They do not need or even want to live like corporate CEOs. Many of the organic farmers and homesteaders I know would be happy to serve as models for a living economy based on the principle of ENOUGH. The Nearings, Helen and Scott, projected an ideal of four hours a day for bread labor, four hours for creative and artistic activities and four hours for conviviality.

Because of economic pressures, these days, people trying to make a living farming are so far from that ideal it is not funny. But if we at least begin demanding that farmers and farm workers should make a living wage with full benefits, (health care, compensation for injuries and unemployment, and retirement) from a 40 hour week, we may start moving towards true food justice that will sustain us into a future worth living.

RECIPE: From the Homemade Hooch Files: Dandelion Wine

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

The following recipe is an excerpt from Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz.

“Wine made from flowers preserves the exquisite flavors and benevolent properties of the blossoms from which it is made. It also preserves the memories of fine, clear, sunshiny days—alone or with Someone Else—in woods, meadows, and hills, picking millions of tiny flowers for hours until they become etched on the insides of the eyelids.” These wise words were written by my friend and neighbor Merril Harris, in an article, “Nipping in the Bud: How to Make Wine from Flowers,” published in Ms. Magazine nearly thirty years ago.

Dandelion wine is the classic flower wine, made with the bright yellow flowers of the plentiful and easy-to-find weed. Don’t believe the hype of the manicured lawn lobby; dandelion is not only beautiful and tasty, but potent liver-cleansing medicine. Many other flowers can transfer their delicate bouquets and distinctive essences into wines, as well, including (but certainly not limited to) rose petals, elderflowers, violets, red clover blossoms, and daylilies.

“Begin by gathering your flowers,” writes Merril, “perhaps the most pleasurable part of the winemaking process.” As a general guideline, pick about a gallon of flowers per gallon of wine you intend to make. If you cannot gather this many in a single outing, freeze what you gather until you accumulate enough. Be sure to pick flowers from places that have not been sprayed, which usually means not roadsides.

TIMEFRAME: 1 year or more

INGREDIENTS (for 1 gallon/4 liters):

  • 1 gallon/4 liters flowers in full bloom
  • 2 pounds/1 kilogram (4 cups/1 liter) sugar
  • 2 lemons (organic, because you will use the peel)
  • 2 oranges (organic, because you will use the peel)
  • 1 pound/500 grams raisins (golden raisins will preserve the dandelion’s light hue better than dark raisins)
  • Water
  • 1⁄2 cup/125 milliliters berries (for wild yeast) or 1 packet wine yeast
  • PROCESS:

    1. As much as possible, separate flower petals from the base of the blossoms, which can impart bitter flavors. With dandelions this can be a tedious project.
    2. Reserving about ½ cup/125 milliliters to add later in the process, place the flower petals in a crock with the sugar, the juice and thinly peeled rinds of the lemons and oranges (to add acidity), and the raisins (to introduce astringent tannins). Then pour 1 gallon (4 liters) of boiling water over these ingredients, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Cover the crock to keep flies away, and leave to cool to body temperature.
    3. Once the mixture cools, add the reserved flower petals and berries to introduce wild yeasts. (Or to use commercial yeast, remove 1 cup of the cooled mixture, dissolve a packet of yeast into it, and once it starts to bubble vigorously add it to the crock.) Cover the crock, and stir as often as you think of it, for 3 to 4 days.
    4. Strain out the solids through a clean cheesecloth and squeeze moisture out of the flowers. Then transfer liquid to a carboy or jug with an airlock, and ferment about 3 months, until fermentation slows.
    5. Siphon into a clean vessel and ferment at least 6 months more before bottling.
    6. Age bottles at least 3 months to mellow wine; even longer is better.

    Growing Your Own Herbs in 6 Easy Steps

    Thursday, April 10th, 2014

    Author Didi Emmons understands it’s intimidating to work with unfamiliar herbs. In her book, Wild Flavors: One Chef’s Transformative Year Cooking From Eva’s Farm, she takes the simple approach that herbs, like any other plant, need good soil, water, sun, and air to thrive. Just vary the amounts of these four life-giving resources for each plant variety and you’ll be able to tend to the freshest of herbs anywhere, anytime.

    In the following excerpt from Wild Flavors, Emmons turns to her expert gardening friend, Kelly Lake, for six easy steps to growing your own herbs. From choosing the right location to harvesting and maintenance, this overview will help you plan your herb garden.

    If you really want to make herbs your next backyard project, check out this tutorial about how to build an herb spiral. This beautiful, year-round focal point is sure to be the envy of all your neighbors.

    So You Want to be a Small-Scale Dairy Farmer

    Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

    So, you want to start a small-scale dairy. Before you begin scanning real estate ads, buying a set of Carhartts, and pricing out feed, take heed from the advice of acclaimed author and farmer Gianaclis Caldwell.

    Caldwell grew up on a small family farm in Oregon, where she milked cows, ran a dairy cow 4-H club, and learned to raise organic produce and meat. In 2005, Caldwell returned to the property with her husband and their two daughters where they now operate Pholia Farm, an off-grid, raw milk cheese dairy. So, she knows of what she speaks (and writes).

    TEH SMALL SCALE DIARYIn her new book, The Small-Scale Dairy: The Complete Guide to Milk Production for the Home and Market, Caldwell asks wannabe farmers to sit down, take a deep breath, and (honestly) answer a few key questions before diving into the romantic life of a dairy farmer.

    • Does your idea of a vacation involve getting up several hours earlier than normal to finish the chores in time to attend a raw-milk educational conference, then arrive home late, do chores again, and still get up on time the next morning
    • Do you see yourself paying more for animal feed than your own dinner out
    • Do you find inserting your arm into a laboring doe’s uterus to untangle triplet goat kids an interesting challenge
    • Does your idea of a balanced workout include doing squats while working in the milking parlor
    • Does producing wholesome food and feeding your community make you happy

    If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you might be a dairy farmer.

    In The Small-Scale Dairy, Caldwell (The Small-Scale Cheese Business, Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking) provides the know-how to safely produce nourishing, farm-fresh milk. She also provides readers a balanced perspective on the current regulatory environment in which raw-milk lovers find themselves.

    “For both producers and consumers, The Small-Scale Dairy is a must read and a valuable contribution to a growing movement,” writes Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

    In The Small-Scale Cheese Business Caldwell tackled the nuts and bolts of running a successful creamery, while in the beautifully designed and written Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking, she provided insight into the intricacies of cheesemaking science – as well as tried and true recipes for beginner to expert cheesemakers.

    With the addition of her latest book, Caldwell has created a farm-to-plate trilogy for the aspiring dairy farmer and cheesemaker. Pick up any one of her books and learn whether you just might be a dairy farmer, have what it takes to run the business side of your cheese business, or if you’re talents lie in crafting the perfect artisanal cheese wheel. Or, grab the complete set and start scanning the real estate ads and looking for a few pairs of Carhartts.

    The Small-Scale Dairy: The Complete Guide to Milk Production for the Home and Market is available now and on sale for 35% off until April 11. Read an excerpt below.

    Chapter 2: Is the Small Dairy Right for You? by Chelsea Green Publishing

    Does it Pay to Keep a Cow?

    Thursday, February 13th, 2014

    Originally published as The Cow Economy in the 1970s, Keeping a Family Cow is the revised and updated Chelsea Green edition of Joann Grohman’s classic homesteader guide to owning a family cow.

    In this adapted article below, Grohman – who, at 85, still milks her cow daily – walks newcomers through the economics, and the emotions, of owning a family cow, or two. So, if you’re ruminating this winter about getting a cow this year – read on. Or, start your daydreaming.

    * * * * *

    Your Cow Economy

    Does it pay to keep a cow? For the last fifteen thousand years and more the answer was too obvious to bother asking. Cattle, more than anything else, were synonymous with wealth. Is the world so different now? We certainly do our cost accounting differently today. Once you have your own cow you will modify the following numbers to fit your circumstances.

    The chart here can help you get started. In the following example I am assuming 165 days of grazing and 200 days of hay feeding.

    Keeping Family Cow Chart

    Additional costs for trucking, fencing, housing, veterinary expenses, pitchforks, and so on are important to keep track of, but you will get a clearer sense of your cow economy if you log them separately.

    If the cow is on a no-grain regimen you can deduct the cost of the grain, but you will then need to deduct 20 percent of the milk production.

    If the cow freshens at five gallons a day, you dry her off after 290 days, at which point she was giving two gallons a day, that’s an average of about 3.5 gallons per day or 1,015 gallons per year. Cows in commercial herds do a lot better than this and yours may too. But at $4 a gallon that’s $4,060 worth of milk. Deducting the costs of the cow and her feed, you are, in theory, $1,035 ahead. In the second year, when the cow is already paid for, your costs are only $2,025. If you have a $600 heifer calf to sell, you may consider yourself $2,635 ahead.

    If you are raising a steer you won’t want to butcher before eighteen months. Both butchering costs and what he may bring at auction vary greatly, but you ought to be able to count on 450 pounds of meat if you choose to butcher.

    If a family of four uses a gallon of milk a day, there is an average of two and a half gallons a day to sell, make into value-added products, or feed to other livestock. At this point, if you consider value-added products, the cost accounting can get quite interesting.

    If raw milk sales are legal in your area, the two and a half gallons can be sold at the farm gate for at least $6 a gallon. Or you can skim the cream and sell it either as cream or as butter, making from $10 to $20. You can make cheese from either skim or whole milk. Skim milk or excess whole milk can be used as a significant part of the diet of chickens, pigs, or calves, or as fertilizer. Clearly butter is what you do with cream that doesn’t sell. But I would never sell much butter. It is too valuable in the family diet. I like to know what my dairy products are worth, but I keep a cow so that we can have all the high-quality dairy products we want.

    Don’t forget that the cow’s manure is also valuable, either as fertilizer on your fields or to sell. Where I live, dried cow manure sells for $7 for a twenty-five-pound bag. But as with butter, I consider the manure to be too valuable to sell.

    Ruminants make milk and meat on a diet of plant products. On a similar diet, other animals only fatten and make poor growth; they need a true protein source such as milk before they can build muscle and reproduce. The cow is thus an engine capable of driving the entire nutritional economy of a household. She is the ultimate sustainable-energy vehicle.

    The cow does not just provide protein for the other critters on the place. The effect of cow manure on the garden is magical. I go to very little trouble with composting, just starting a new pile occasionally and using up the old one. My garden soil is dark and friable and grows strong, healthy plants with a minimum of effort.

    Can you put a price on all this?

    Maybe. I often read articles, books, and newsletters with suggestions on how to spend less on “lifestyle” so couples can get along on one income. Would home production of virtually all of your food make this possible for you? It will certainly keep you all radiantly healthy.

    Feeding CowAnd another thing. Thrift is my middle name, but those suggestions for feeding the family on day-old bread and making bulk purchases of dry cereal I find depressing. Keeping a cow is more satisfying. One popular writer encourages frugality so that there can be savings in readiness for the children’s orthodontia. I do not find this to be an incentive. If your children are young when you get a cow and they grow up with fresh milk, their teeth will be straight, just as all teeth were meant to be. How much we personally have saved on dental or medical bills would be difficult to state because health insurance costs vary. My emphasis has always been on prevention, not cure. Consequently cure has seldom come into it, but when it does it has a better chance in an already strong constitution built on real food.

    I cannot discuss the cost and work of keeping a cow without also considering the true long-term investment in the health and appearance of my family. The cost of my labor cannot be counted in this domestic economy. Nothing else I might have done with my time could have matched the rewards I see.

    Cows and grass are recession-proof and inflation-proof. In difficult times, the family with a cow is not poor.


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