Monday, January 10, 2011

I know I made promises...

... about an upcoming post, and I will keep them, I swear! It's a long one about me and the who/what/when/where/why/how of my eating vegan, so I will have a handy place to direct people when they ask me the dreadful question. It's nearly done!

In the mean time, I have some exciting news to share. After the end of my WWOOFing endeavors in late october and my failure to find a job on Portland, I decided to stop beating around the bush and apply for 2011 full-season apprenticeships on organic vegetable farms, and lo and behold, I got the one I most coveted! Starting in March I will be working for Blue Fox Farm in Applegate, OR.

I am excited to do this; while I have a lot of experience gardening, I've never been involved in an operation of this scale before, and I am specifically interested in getting to know farm systems and management. I'll also get to sell at Market, which is another big plus. I will be participating in Rogue Farm Corps, which adds another educational component to the experience. The Rogue and Applegate Valleys are littered with small organic farms and a great bunch of people participating in that lifestyle, so I'm very much looking forward to living in a place with active and engaging agro-community members. Nearby Ashland and Grants Pass are also neat places to go when in need of some civilization.

I'll be spending less time at the beach than I did when I was in Coquille, but I will also be a lot busier, learning a lot more about business, and getting a lot more paid (as in, at all) as well. I'm looking forward to meeting my fellow interns and having more things to post here about my life in farming than I have in this off-season.

Oh winter, I'm so close to being done with you.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Factory Farms Map

Working on a new post. In the mean time, here in an interesting map that shows the density of CAFOs by county that I found on Civil Eats:



An interactive version is available here

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sweet Fall Salad

Hello! I know it's been a while. My access to the internet (and to upload things) was pretty limited at Myrtle Glen Farm, which is a shame, since I was having such an interesting and busy time there! My stay there came to an end a few weeks ago, and since then I have been chilling in Portland with my friend Galen. I thought I would share a particularly tasty salad I made today.

Sweet Fall Salad (all from oregon!)

Red Leaf Lettuce
Spinach (from Myrtle Glen)
Fennel Stalk and Greens
Asian Pear (from Galen's yard)

Dressing:
Honey
Stone ground mustard
Lemon Juice
Olive Oil
Water
Vinegar
Salt
Pepper


I'm not usually a big fan of Asian Pears (a lot of hype for something neither as sweet as a pear nor as crisp as an apple), but we had an excess of them on the tree here and so I've been trying to find ways to incorporate them into my foods. My favorite so far has been to chop them up and put them in salads! Their mild flavor goes well with a honey dressing; I think they resemble jicama, but I've been known to be crazy.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Eat

FIRST of all, hi - I haven't forgotten about Peas and Petals, this summer has just been absolutely insane. I have been working for Transportation Alternatives (more on that later), traveling to Wisconsin and Chicago for a month, roller skating (not blading) every day since July (more on that later, too), and I'm finally back for a whole new school year that has already started to be 10x better than last year. I have an easier time in classes (which is funny because the course material is actually harder...), I have my dream internship/field placement (seriously. what I always wished for!), and I am eating every day up in this lovely city by just being out, about, with friends, involved. Including this weekend, which was awesome. And then, today as a close friend and I decided to get brunch on our slow-moving Sunday morning, I realized upon my first bite of my dish that I have officially found my favorite restaurant in Brooklyn.

Yes, the entire borough.
...Eat is the restaurant I wish I was always eating at.


Eat uses local, organic, directly purchased produce (NE region) in all of their food. All of the dishes are seasonal, the restaurant itself is VERY sustainable (i.e. almost no waste - the napkins are all cloth, portions filling but not overkill, etc.), and they even sell hand-made goods like beeswax candles, wood cutting boards, and house-made loaves of bread. Their menu changes very, very often and is filled with amazing dishes at EXTREMELY affordable prices.

I am obsessed with this place and I want to take every single person I know to it! Here is some eye-candy of Eat to hopefully portray the cozy, comfy, delicious, warm, and aromatic feel to this place. It is SO lovely.

cute silver ware/napkins/ceramics holding our water, jam, and tea


broccoli fennel soup with collard greens(?)



whole wheat house made egg noodles with summer vegetables and swiss chard



Eat's interior - we were one of the first people after they opened today. Note the peppers drying out in there!


concord grape sage (cold) tea, salt, and water.


whole wheat blueberry tart with rhubarb jam (not pictured)
(more photos here!)

I really hope Eat is around for years and years and years (okay, forever) to come. This place rules, it is basically the restaurant I wish I opened (if I ever opened a restaurant), and everyone needs to experience what simplicity can taste like. I'll just tell you - it tastes like perfection.

I hope you all are having a nice last few (official) days of summer...get out there while you can, but get ready for fall. Cider and apples and pumpkins and pies await!!!

-Lee

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Preserving

Wow, no way has it been a month already since I posted! Time flies, especially when you're busy. Farm work is definitely an all-day affair. Since Myrtle Glen is a homestead, rather than a production-based operation, there's a lot of other responsibilities that come along with living here: cooking, cleaning, timing the use of the solar and cob ovens just right during the day, taking care of the animals, and of course, putting food up! Taking the excesses of summer and turning them into the staples of winter is a time-consuming and important task. We've been mainly using four methods.

Cool Storage
Some vegetables keep better than others, but need to be provided with the right environment. Winter squash, potatoes, onions, and apples are being tucked away into the newly finished tile-art cave. A stable temperature and dark, dry conditions prevent molding on these vegetables, which if harvested in the fall, will keep well into the winter.

Blanching/freezing
Perhaps the most versatile and fool-proof way of putting things up is to blanch and freeze. Blanching involves dipping the veggies into frozen water for about 1 minute, and then cooling them quickly in cold water before freezing. This halts all the enzymes in the vegetables and prevents them from breaking down, preserving nutrients and color. The disadvantage of freezing of course lies in limited space, and energy needed to keep the freezer running all the time.

Canning
I canned my first pickles last night! Canning is a great way to put food up, since they can sit on pretty much any shelf and just wait until you're ready to use them. Pickles are also a safe choice, since the brine can usually prevent bacterial growth even in the absence of a sterile environment. Here we have to use the wood stove to heat up the large canning pots, so we have to do it in either the early morning or late evening to prevent giving ourselves heat stroke in the middle of a summer day. What I like about canning is how once you have all the supplies, they can mostly just be re-used over from year to year. The exception to this is the lids, which must be new to create a solid seal. I'd be interested in finding a way around this somehow...

Drying
Dehydrating is another easy way to store things in the pantry. The catch being that you need a dehydrator, which uses electricity. But when you don't have time to can things like beans and carrots after a particularly big harvest, drying is a great alternative to freezing, since it takes up less space and can be reconstituted into soups and such during the cold months.

Of course, certain foods do best with certain methods of preservation. Like diversified farming, using a variety of storage methods also covers your ass if something goes awry with one of them (such as the freezer being left open, tsk tsk!).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Edible Flowers

Myrtle Glen, in addition to being a farm, also has some very well maintained flower gardens all around the house. Dave, the owner, is a believer in functional beauty, as I learned that the majority of them are either edible or medicinal. One of my favorite is elephant garlic, which grows a beautiful big purple flower head with a silly little clove-shaped paper hat on top.

Do to a bumper crop of lettuce, we eat salad with pretty much every meal. However, I've discovered that a few flower additions can make your lunch look (and taste!) much more exciting.



We made this salad with Begonias (which have a very tart, citrusy flavor), day lilies (which are mild and sweet), and a bunch of fresh-picked strawberries. To put it lightly, it was mind-blowingly delicious. Salads like these hardly even need dressing.



We also picked a few California Poppy plants to make a tincture with, which basically involves steeping the cut up whole plant in everclear for about a month or so. California poppy is a calming medicine, and can also be dried and made into tea. It's been an educational experience to learn all of the different uses for what I would otherwise just have passed up as pretty flowers and not much more. As it turns out, pretty much every plant (and most weeds) have some very cool purposes, and I intend to keep learning them as I go.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Eating in the abscence of animal products

The other day, I received a comment from one of the other people living here at Myrtle Glen that made me stop and think. I had made dinner that night, just a smattering of beans, salsa, and veggies thrown together in something resembling enchiladas. This person is a man attached to the grill. Several times a week, it gets fired up and off it comes chicken, pork, whatever. He makes potato salad with mayo. He doesn't handle spicy things very well.

What he said to me was that he was usually skeptical of vegan/vegetarian food, and that it wasn't very good. But that after a few weeks of my cooking, he had changed his opinion, as he enjoyed every dish that I've made (even some of the spicy ones!). This, to me, was a great compliment, and points to exactly what I want to show people though vegan cooking. It's about making seemingly benign things like legumes and grains into colorful, flavorful, and satisfying dishes and of themselves. Specifically, by not trying to substitute in animal-based dishes, but making things that don't include animal products in the first place. Mixing spices and herbs and using tons of vegetables and experimenting with what's available at any given time rather than sticking only to what you already know.

Of course, this applies to cooking with animal products too (especially in a farm setting where it's more sustainable to use the dairy and eggs you have than buying silly things like vegan cheese). But the fact that I was able to help open someone's mind and show that you don't need a meat main dish for it to be a real meal made my day a little brighter.