Farm Photos

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Winter Soup

In our first year here we had a kitchen garden, and grew so many veggies during the summer that we couldn't possibly eat them all. However, we didn't have as much luck in our winter crops. Our autumn brassicas became an early winter snack for deer and rabbits after a tree fell taking out part of the fence. Our root veggies were sparing, and the peacocks made work of our winter greens. Needless to say, in late December here we are with almost no fresh vegetables. There is one crop, though, that is the king of self storage and will warm any cold winter day. Squash; and we've got plenty of them...from pumpkins to butternut to warty yellow squash to acorn. Any squash you've got will do, and will impress your foodie friends as you go from garden to bowl. They've been sitting on my dining table since October, when they were nice for Halloween, and through Thanksgiving. I grabbed one now and then for a jack-o-lantern or a thanksgiving pie...but other than that they served as decor.

Now, as I look around the kitchen for something to cook and realize that we're getting down to extreme basics, the pumpkins on the table begin to take on a new look: lunch. I chose a small, sweet Sugar Baby pumpkin, but any pumpkin or squash will make a good soup.

Cut it open and remove seeds and stringy material. Set seeds aside for roasting or re-planting if they are organic! Get the meat separated from the rind, you can peel it or scoop it out if you want to retain the pumpkin to use as a bowl. I usually cut it into small pieces and then peel it with a knife, because I find scooping exhausting. If you hate trying to get the rind off the meat, then cut the whole thing in half and put in uncovered face up on a cookie sheet. Bake until you can slide a knife through the meat easily, and the rind will just basically fall off.

I don't bother with baking, or using a steamer...I like to do it all in one pot. Fill about 1/4 of the pot with water, and then add enough pumpkin to fill it up to the lid. If it seems like too much water pour some out, or you can evaporate it out later. Place lid on pot and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, until you can slide a butter knife through the pumpkin chunks (or if you already baked it then simmer until you can mash). Mash the pumpkin into oblivion; some people use a processor but I don't find in necessary, chunks are good. What you want is a generally smooth, soupy texture with some lumps and chunks.

Add one can of coconut milk, and a tablespoon of curry powder. Taste, and add curry powder, salt and pepper to your preference. Now, if the soup still feels watery let it simmer, uncovered, until it thickens. If it is too thick, add water! SO EASY! and very good with homemade bread.

Don't forget to roast your seeds! They make a good topping, or just a snack. You can use just about any seasoning you like: garlic powder, cayenne, cajun, curry, parmesan, or just salt and pepper...experiment! Just toss them with some oil and seasoning, spread them on a cookie sheet and roast in a 300 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until they look brown and crispy.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why Free Spirits and Flower Children Always Start the Revolution!

I won’t reiterate all of the things we already know and mostly agree upon. Corporations rule the world both first and third, with government puppets. They have imposed a culture of capitalism and in turn produced class warfare. The industrial drive to progress and produce has reaped irrevocable havoc upon our planet; Earth. 

However distant the insane monarchies of middle age Europe seem, we are living in one. Despite illusions of evolution and democratic progress…we live under the tyranny of a handful of wealthy people. These elite have no connection to the working class, or the state of our cities, our oceans, our water, our families. They live in bubbles of Elysium-like purity. 

We are even getting to a point where most of the people agree that the problems facing our economy and our planet are hand-in-hand. To get to this point, however, we must learn to see through the corporate veil.  As Pulitzer Prize winning author Chris Hedges states in a recent speech to students: “The corporate state rather feeds the thirst for illusion happiness and hope, it peddles the fantasy of endless material progress, it insists (and this is globalization) that our voyage is unalterable, decreed by natural law. It is part of the march of human progress and those who challenge this myth are heretics.”  This entitlement to progression is a curse, it is a mental illness which no person who values humility would ever justify. I say no. Human ‘progress’ is a myth; a linear path of existence is a model far too outdated and desperate to be replaced. 

It falls to those who dare to be idealistic to envision parts of the future. It falls to those who care enough to seek an alternative; those who refuse to be a part of the destruction. That is bravery beyond measure. And, because today the problems are global, it is further requiring an element of universal care within all those seeking to change the system. And, in the face of such an all-consuming, greed driven, ruling class what better tool for change than love and peace? It is something industry does not understand. It does not understand it because it was made by people who fear the unseen, people who fear faith. Sounds strange…but faith is really the opposite of fear, it is a form of love. Not in any religious sense of that word, faith, but in the sense of taking that giant leap of faith in the face of fear. The hero of our human story takes that leap of faith because of love. Love for her people, her homeland, love for herself, her way of life, her culture, and her conviction of what is True.  At a risk of slightly over simplifying…We, the collective human that is our entire species, is now standing on that precipice. 

It’s hilarious the juxtaposition of our culture. On one hand we have this monostory about a hero who defies all fear and impossibility in the name of love and goodness. He is altruistic and just and caring, the type of person all our politicians try to portray with their swagger. Yet, everything about our economy and our system shows a complete lack of that type of faith or love. There isn’t a C.E.O. on the planet who would take a financial leap of faith for the third world; and you’d be hard pressed to find a president who’d do that. It’s bad business to take such risks, and those who do, or even suggest something like giving stuff away are ridiculed out of the business. 

Within this picture money represents our fear of faith. People hoard money because they fear that the Earth, their community, the government, will not provide what they need. It’s a safety net that seems insane to dismantle. When locked into a cycle of fear this deep, the only thing that can really bring people out is love. And, it HAS to come from both sides. People who have found a new way of life must learn to love people who ridicule them for it; they even have to start giving stuff away to these non-believers in an act of faith. Those who don’t believe in alternative forms of living have a responsibility to find love for people who are living alternatively and talking about it. Part of love is patience and an open ear; it is an initial act of faith to dare to dream. 

Even popular culture reflects our disdain for those who ‘care’ in characters like Lisa Simpson who can’t catch a break, or through unfeeling characters like Peter Griffin of Family Guy who is quite obviously a sociopath. We have to bring back love in a big way and make it cool again to care. This is why flower children and free spirits always start the revolution. They aren’t afraid to have faith in each other, or to love without condition. What does the hero always learn once they leap? That the fear was an illusion to begin with and all you really have to do is take one tiny step to find out that there’s a bridge. 

It is in people that we must place our faith, our neighbors, our schools, our forests, our farmers, our artisans, our homes, our families, our soils. You can love a corporation to death but it cannot love you back, it is a false entity created by the fearful to do nothing but protect its money, it is a dragon. Love for the people at the head of these entities, or those who make up the bodies of them is good. These people are slaves to their fear, working ever harder to support this dragon of consumption and illusory progress. Those who have detached from the fear entity can show others, through their commitment to undying and unconditional love, where to cross that bridge. Your time is over “dog-eat-dog” culture, it is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius when peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Vegan Zucchini Bread

Vegan Zucchini Bread

You know what I love about this recipe? (No, I can't just write a recipe. As soon as my fingers touch the keyboard, it feels so good.) I love that if you make it exactly as it is written here, it requires you to use three of my favorite items in the kitchen.

1) Apple Cider Vinegar - you should have one bottle in your pantry and one bottle in your medicine cabinet. This is a miracle substance. When eaten, this acid has an alkalizing effect on body ph, (I know, sounds confusing but acids have the opposite effect in the gut) so if you're trying to stay alkaline then add this one to your daily diet. In this recipe, we're using it to replace buttermilk and in fact it's universal. One teaspoon ACV to one cup water replaces one cup of buttermilk. Go Vegans!

2) Coconut Oil - A wonderful, non-hydrogenated saturated fat! Don't demonize saturated fat, it's trans-fats that you want to avoid. Coconut oil gives the body a boost of monolaurin, an indispensable immune system soldier. This rich oil is a solid at room temperature, and makes a wonderful vegan butter replacement. The flavor is relatively strong, heating calms it, but I prefer coconut oil for sweet recipes or savory recipes in which coconut would be a welcomed guest.

3) Flax Meal - Flax has gotten alot of attention lately for it's omega fatty acid content, and evidence linking consuming flax seed to lowered risks of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Flax meal is my favorite way to have it in the kitchen because it's just so versatile. Throw it into pancakes, breads, sauces, pizza, smoothies...whatever! Also, in baking, Flax meal fulfills the binding role that normally we would use eggs for. 

And, voila! You've just replaced three animal based, potentially artery clogging ingredients: Buttermilk, Butter, and Eggs...with three ingredients known to improve heart health and body vitality. I'm not one to normally preach against butter, eggs or buttermilk and if you have a local, organic source of these foods then please, eat them! But, I do have vegan friends and I like to be able to feed them too! Plus, any excuse to stick all those great fats together in a recipe.

Finally, the bread: Makes 2 loaves

2 Cups grated Zucchini (there it is!)
1/4 Cup coconut oil (melted)
1/4 Cup oil (I use grapeseed; see below!)
1 Cup Sugar
2 Cups water and 2 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
2-3 Tbsp. Flax Meal
1 tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Baking Soda
3 1/2 Cups Bread Flour
2 Tbsp. Cinnamon (or to taste)

Coat two loaf pans with coconut oil. If you've got an apron on that can take a bit of grease, don't wash your hands after touching the oil! (Please, do wash them prior to starting recipe) Coconut oil is one of the best for chapped skin, hands, feet, and face. Let your hands work with the ingredients and soak in some healing fatty acids at the same time. 

Melt coconut oil and combine with grapeseed oil in mixing bowl. Blend into oil: sugar and water with ACV. In separate bowl combine flour, salt, baking soda, and flax meal. Add dry mixture to wet mixture in small increments while constantly stirring. Last, stir in zucchini. Batter should be lumpy, but does not form stiff peaks and settles into pan. 

Baking: I bake mine in a bread maker for about 1 1/2 hours at 300 degrees. I'd give it about 1 hour in a 350 degree oven. Set your timer for 40 minutes and check it. When the top looks done, let it bake for another 10 minutes. Insert wooden dowel to be sure it's done before pulling it out. (You've got to feel the bread, be the bread, lol)

Quick note on grapeseed oil. 
I will not advise people to use vegetable oil. The truth of the matter is that most stuff titled veggie oil out there is genetically modified. Stay away from generic vegetable oil, canola oil, and soybean oil that isn't organic. Grapeseed has not yet been defiled by the mutilating hands of Monsanto, and is still a safe, available, and affordable cooking oil. It doesn't have as strong of flavor as olive oil, and performs wonderfully in a bread or a frying pan. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Boca Bad News

Recently, a friend introduced us to Boca vegan chicken patties. I admit, I fell for the charming convenience and fast food reminiscent taste for quite a while before looking beyond the box. In the back of my mind, because I automatically pick food apart and occasionally just suppress it so I can enjoy something, I knew these were oh so wrong. But I bought them anyway. Finally, after my stomach made it difficult to ignore by reacting strangely to this chicken-like-substance, I did a quick scan with my Buycott app.

Sure enough, it immediately advised me not to purchase. I should have known (I knew); anything that says "soy" in the ingredients and does not have a clear "non-GMO" label is genetically modified. Turns out Boca, the nations number one vegan burger, is chalked full of genetically modified soy. I already avoid soy most of the week, and I know that anything which comes in frozen boxes is too processed to be healthy. Boca is a child company of Kraft Global, possibly the worlds largest producers of cheap, unhealthy food-like products. They donated $2 million dollars, according to the Organic Consumers Association, to campaign against GMO labeling in California (Prop 37).

Some suggests switching to Amy's patties, and this is a great idea. Amy's is a good company, widely available, they make quality convenience food. In fact I sat next to an Amy's representative at a conference last year and we had a blast whispering insults at the pro-GMO speaker on-stage. But, darn them, they do not yet have a chicken-ish pattie.

Amy's vegan, non-gmo, soy-based burger pattie

Wait! I never let my smart phone do all my thinking for me. So, I decided to pay Boca a little web visit and poke around. Turns out, they make GMO-Free versions of both the original vegan burger AND the chicken burger. Not that your local Walmart or Safeway would pick them up, but you could ask. They are packaged with a 'natural' brown box in contrast to Boca's typical red visual assault.

Now, here's a solution. However, I have only seen this brand in a few stores and they may not be as easily found. Check your local co-op or health food store. They're called Quorn! I must tell you that I have yet to actually try one of these, but I absolutely love the idea behind this food. These are Soy-Free and GMO-Free (according to a F.A.Q. on their website they use no GM ingredients). These are a mycoprotien, YAY! Like tempeh, it is a mycelium colonizing a grain, in this case wheat mostly. If that scares you than just don't think about it. Mycoprotiens are delicious and a great, safe, non-animal, non-soy, protein source that could become a food of the future. because fermentation occurs during the growth of these mycoprotiens, the food is alive with enzymes and probiotics that aid in digestion. I have thought about trying to create my own chik'n patty using tempeh that is breaded, so these guys beat me to it.

So, what does it come down to? All soy-based products that do not directly say "non-gmo" or "organic" are most likely genetically modified, including your favorite vegetarian or vegan options like Boca. If you're worried about companies like Kraft Global (I know I am) than I wouldn't purchase Boca at all. If you just can't live without those spicy chik'n burgers, then order the non-gmo version online or ask your grocer to carry them. If you feel strongly about not eating genetically modified ingredients, supporting companies of questionable ethics, if you still don't have time to perfect a chik'n recipe, and have the opportunity to purchase Quorn, I would suggest doing that! I'll have to add to this post after I try this new-to-me brand and/or perfect my own tempeh based chik'n patty which I can freeze myself.

Happy Healthy Eating!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

From Student to Practice

Hello all, short post just explaining the revamping of our blog. This blog was originally written as a project for the Evergreen State College during an independent contract I had as a student. Now, I have graduated and I am gardening full time. I love connecting with the world and sharing our progress, so I would like to continue to blog as I learn to make this senior project into a business. So, what was Onalaska Honalee has now become the official farm blog of Soulstice Gardens. Don't worry, all of my research into Permaculture, Hugelkulture, Biodynamics, and agriculture is still here in the older blog posts.

Now, I will include all of our current and future farm activities, recipes, tips on making a homestead more sustainable, current news on small organic farming, and exploration into various 'green' products. Don't forget to check out the new recipe section: "Food: From the organic obsessed, vegetarian, meat and potatoes raised, bargain hunting girl." I will be adding recipes more frequently now that we're back in the swing.

A small farm update: We had an amazingly productive first year here in the kitchen garden at Soulstice Gardens. Next year we are planning to expand to include a market garden, a fungi forest, and a large herb garden. So subscribe to the blog and connect with us on Facebook to get posts:

Sweet purple grape vines.

Lemon Cucumbers, we also had Armenians and Straight Eights.

Zucchini getting a bit too big....

Green Pumpkin.

Whew, long day weeding.

Yogi, the blog dog!

Some Chooks, in their field.

Mmm lunch outdoors.

Slugs be gone! Our ducks are an essential working force in the garden and they do a wonderful job.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Vegan Tempeh Chili

When it comes to food, I pinch pennies into diamonds. And, I don’t sacrifice when it comes to health, animal welfare, human rights and earth justice. Food is my life; and every day I learn about growing, cooking, producing, processing, or storing food. I take products on the market and break them down to get to the bottom of what is really in a can of tomatoes, and also explore inexpensive and widely available alternatives. Stay tuned to this page for recipes, favorite products, and food secrets....

Vegan Tempeh Chili: (feeds 2 very hungry people and 4 for afternoon lunch)

1 Onion
1 Bell Pepper (your choice of color)
A handful of chopped hot do you want it?
2 cloves of garlic
two cups diced tomatoes (or two cans diced tomatoes)
1 can sweet corn (or two cobs worth)
1 package organic tempeh, diced
1 can organic kidney beans
1 can organic garbanzo beans
1 tbps Olive Oil
 1 bay leaf
chili powder
garlic powder

in a soup pot; saute onion, bell peppers, garlic, and jalepeno's in cooking oil. When they begin to sweat add Tempeh and let simmer another 5 minutes or so. Just before onions are fully caramelized, add tomatoes, corn, your bay leaf, and a pinch or two of salt. Let that cook for about 7-10 minutes on medium heat, stirring frequently. Add spices to taste or smell, using the garlic powder as a supplement for more garlic flavor.
Add kidney beans and garbonzo beans, not fully draining each can but pouring off about 1/2 of the liquid. Let your chili simmer from 20 minutes to all day if you want. Add salt, pepper and additional spices to taste.

Tempeh: this is a protein packed, grain derived protein source available in some grocery stores in the refrigerated section next to tofu, or frozen section. To avoid GMO soy, purchase an organic brand. Tempeh is much more easily digested in the body due to the fact that it is fermented. Fermented grains contain live enzymes and probiotics that assist in digestion process making them easier to process than raw grains. Tempeh is also higher in protein and fiber than tofu. It has a sweet, nutty taste that I have come to crave.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Antibiotic Organics

This article is from The Center for Food Safety; a non-profit organization dedicated to sustainable agriculture. They also seem to keep an eye on the EPA and the FDA, which I personally appreciate and think we need more people doing.

Get Antibiotics out of Organic Apple and Pear Production!

A little-known use of antibiotics has quietly been allowed in organic apple and pear orchards. Most organic consumers believe that antibiotics are prohibited in organic food production systems, which is mostly true, since all other uses were outlawed when “organic” became a federally regulated program in 2002.  Yet, the use of the antibiotics tetracycline and streptomycin, commonly used to treat human and animal infections, in apple and pear growing have been the exception.  Organic apple and pear growers spray them in their orchards to prevent the spread of a costly disease called fire blight, which stifles new growth and can kill trees.

Tell the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) that the spraying of antibiotics on apple and pear trees goes against the principles of organic, and it’s high time this loophole was closed.

Unfortunately, tetracycline and streptomycin have become the treatment of choice for controlling fire blight and, subsequently, resistance to streptomycin has already become a problem in many apple and pear orchards.  When antibiotics are used to kill targeted bacteria, some bacteria are resistant and contribute to the pool of resistant genes in the environment.  This situation increases the likelihood that human pathogens will eventually acquire that resistance. Given the problems associated with antibiotic resistance, and the potential for reduced effectiveness of these important drugs for curing human infections, the obvious question is why all uses of antibiotics haven’t been prohibited in organic?

The short answer is that many organic pear and apple growers feel they have limited options since research has been slow to identify alternatives to stop the spread of fire blight. Yet, other growers have found that antibiotics are not needed by keeping a close watch on their orchards and by using the full range of cultural practices and organic inputs available to prevent the spread of the disease.

In 2011, the NOSB informed organic apple and pear growers that both tetracycline and streptomycin would be prohibited after the current extension for its use expired on October 21, 2014. Concerned about their inability to meet the deadline, some growers have petitioned the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to extend the expiration date, again, until 2016.

Tell the NOSB that enough is enough -- without time pressure to end the use of tetracycline and streptomycin, alternative controls likely will not be implemented as soon as they could be.  Given the growing public and medical community concern about antibiotic resistance and its effects on health, we cannot risk having these important antibiotics lose their effectiveness for killing human pathogens. Moreover, the entire organic label and organic program is at risk of losing credibility because organic consumers do not expect antibiotics to be used in any of the organic products they buy, and certainly not in apples and pears.

Sign the petition urging the NOSB to phase-out antibiotics in organic apples and pears! Take action by March 19th to get your comment on the record!

Center for Food Safety

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Salal Propagation

I always find myself walking through the woods wondering "what is that berry? what is that plant?" Well, the first time I remembered my northwest plant identification guide on one of my walks, I discovered something fascinating.

There is a shiny green-leafed ground cover bush that grows seemingly everywhere in western Washington, and you probably pass by it on the daily unaware of it's edible properties. Salal, as the coastal Chinook called it, or Gaultheria shallon, is a beautiful native bush which produces blueberry-like berries in late summer.

Salal is often found looking like the above picture, bunched around the trunks of conifers, it's favorite companion species. It is identifiable by it's shiny oval leaves that slightly purple in winter; its red-ish stems and rhizomes; and its lantern-like hanging pink flowers.

 According to King County's Native Plant Guide:
"The single best ground cover for northwest gardens, salal is a do it all plant. Long recognised as one of the best foliage plants for flower arranging, it is also one of the most adaptable in the native repertoir"

Salal distribution.

But this plant goes beyond just being decorative. The Oregon Encyclopedia says:
"Native Americans made great use of salal as a medicine (dermatological aid, gastrointestinal aid, and cough medicine), food (berries, dried or cooked), dye (purple from fruits, yellow from leaf infusion), and untensil (stems used as cooking tools)."
So, florists use the foliage as decorations in arrangements. Landscapers use the bush as a hedgerow and ground-cover. Gardeners use salal to attract bees and other beneficial insects. Everyone can eat the berries or make preserves, pie, or wine. On top of that this is a native species, cultivated by the Native Americans, so it's well adapted and probably resistant to common ailments in this climate. I'm sold, and I want a patch of it to start.

The University of Washington says that salal is best propagated through rhizome cuttings or seeds. Getting the seed would involved waiting until it fruits, collecting berries, mashing them and spreading the mixture to dry, picking out seeds and starting them. I can do this and probably will, but taking cuttings is a lot faster. Rhizome cutting is a form of vegetative propagation that was common among Native Americans and is actually really simple. However, you should never attempt to harvest wild plants unless you have permission. This is just to protect them in case they are rare, as the process could kill the parent plant.

A row of new plants growing from an underground rhizome.
Find new growth sticking up out of the ground, usually within proximity to a larger plant. Rhizomes are underground stems that grow out in all directions from the parent plant and pop up new plants as they go.

Dig down around the new growth until you find the actual rhizome stem. You can dig with your hands or a shovel. You are looking for an underground stem with small hair roots coming out of it.

These cuttings are ready for planting.

Once you have your cuttings with rhizomes intact; they can go straight into the ground. If you were trying to take it into a more foreign environment, an organic rooting tea may help. If you're transplanting it on the west coast, it's going to take no problem. Salal likes cool, moist soil and shade. It likes to grow near ferns and conifers but will do well on it's own as a backyard  hedge.

New salal cuttings growing with some garden fungi.

Salal used as a driveway hedge.