Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Taste of Tuesday

Here's a salad dressing that is simple and delicious.  And gentle on the earth because when you make your own dressing, you avoid extra packaging.  Plus you get the benefit of knowing exactly what's in it - no mysterious, unpronounceable ingredients.

Zucchini Dressing

1/2 cup safflower oil
1 medium-sized zucchini, diced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons tamari
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon dried parsley

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend at high speed for one minute.  Chill before serving to allow flavors to mingle.

You might want to be careful with the onion as it can be overpowering if you add too much.

Bon appetit!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Quote for the Day

"A weed is an herb whose virtues have yet to be discovered."

Saturday, April 27, 2013


One reason I haven't been posting as much as usual is that we're having a farm open house today!  We've been busy prepping for it and now it's here.  We've invited lots of people and we're excited about sharing our farm journey with them.  I promise to take photos.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

dandelion metamorphosis
“I learned from my two years’ experience that it would cost incredibly little trouble to obtain one’s necessary food, even in this latitude; that a man may use as simple a diet as the animals, and yet retain health and strength. I have made a satisfactory dinner . . . simply off a dish of purslane … which I gathered in my cornfield, boiled and salted. . . . Yet men have come to such a pass that they frequently starve, not for want of necessaries but for want of luxuries.”
~Henry David Thoreau, Walden Pond

Spring is the time when the gardens start coming to life - and so do the weeds.  But wait!  Some of those so-called "weeds" are plants that are not only edible, but they're packed with nutrients.  Take the common weed purslane.  Purslane is packed with omega 3 fatty acid, melatonin, magnesium, calcium, vitamins A, B, C, and E...you get the idea.  The lowly dandelion?  Its greens are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  And its roots are high in iron and zinc.  Burdock is another weed that some readers might be familiar with.  Back when I had a goat sick with mastitis and pink eye - and very close to death - she wouldn't eat anything.  I ended up trying to hand feed her.  She wouldn't eat anything until I found a weed whose leaves I thought would look good to eat if I were a goat.  Sure enough, she gobbled them up.  After that, I always called it Maggie's weed, until I learned that it was burdock.  Like dandelion, burdock root is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  In addition to the nutritional benefits of many backyard weeds, some have health benefits specific to certain medical conditions.

Before you run out into your back yard and start munching, I suggest that unless you're extremely sure of what you have, you consult an expert or even take a class on wild foraging.  Not only are many weeds good for you, they're both work-free and cost-free.  A triple bonus!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Taste of Tuesday

Here's a recipe that has become a family favorite.  A friend recommended it (but I can't remember the original source) and I've altered it slightly.

Cabbage with Portobello Mushrooms

1/2 butter (or Earth Balance if you're vegan)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil 
1/2 medium head of cabbage, cut into thick, short strips
8 oz. baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the cabbage and cook and stir until soft, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Add the mushrooms and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are tender.

Bon appetit!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day

Today, please remember to take care of the earth - it's the only one we have.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Friday, April 19, 2013

Farm Friday

Once again I'm late posting Farm Friday.  It may seem that I've abandoned my blog, but it's just that life happens and can occasionally prevent me from blogging.  I'm also getting used to having a paid job again so there have been some adjustments to my schedule.

The weather still isn't fully cooperating, but Bill has been able to plant some of the gardens.  We've also entered the third week of our CSA and, despite the problems with the weather, we have provided every one of our members with a full share at each delivery.

Over the winter, I grew some basil from cuttings and nursed them through the winter season.  I was finally able to plant them in the garden at the farm house, thinking that we were done with cold weather.  Now the weather forecast is for a few nights in the 30s - I don't know if the basil will be able to survive.  On a positive note, several of my other herbs are coming back really well and should survive the cold temps.  

We've been caring for our new chicks in the basement and they've outgrown their home - a child's wading pool.  They had started to hop in and out of it so it was time to move them.  Yesterday, we put them in a barn stall and they seem happy with their new place.

Tomorrow is the first of several open houses/field days that our organization - Chemical-Free Farms of Southern Virginia - is hosting.  This one is at a fellow member's farm and we will be there to lend support and to share information about our farm.  Next Saturday, we will be hosting the event at our farm and we've been busy getting ready for it.  My plan is to take photos to share in future "Farm Friday" posts.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

Knee replacement - side view
Today I found a good article on strengthening knees as one ages.  So many people seem to be getting knee replacements done these days.  How much better to avoid surgery by doing something to prevent knee problems in the first place.

This New York Times article advises that the first thing to do is to keep your weight within normal range.  Extra weight puts stress on knees and can lead to arthritis.  Another suggestion is to do squats to strengthen leg muscles.  It's important to do the squats correctly and the article links to this video that demonstrates the correct technique.  As the adage goes, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Quote for the Day

File:Sunflower from Silesia.JPG
"Be like the flower, 
turn your face to the sun."
~Kahlil Gibran

Friday, April 12, 2013

Farm Friday

The weather has finally warmed up!  We were afraid we wouldn't see spring - although what we have experienced so far is actually more summer than spring.  In fact, just one hour north of here they experienced a record high of 91 degrees!

Bill was afraid he wouldn't be able to plant anything until spring was over because the ground has been too wet.  However, earlier in the week he did go out and put some transplants in one of the gardens.  (In the photos, he's hidden by some mustard greens that bolted.)

On Thursday the ground was finally dry enough to plow so Bill spent most of the day plowing and planting.  Since it was a CSA delivery day, I told him to keep doing what he was doing - rain was forecast for last night (and it did) - and I delivered the shares to our customers by myself.

I did a bit of gardening at the farm house - what we call the "Old House."  I worked on the flower beds around the house.  I  planted a few flower bulbs, transplanted some daffodil and grape hyacinth bulbs that had naturalized in the yard, and planted some purple coneflower (aka echinacea) seed that I had saved from last year.  I also transplanted some chives that I had grown in a container and planted some dill seed in a raised bed.  Some of the perennial herbs, such as the French tarragon, are coming back, and some of the annual herbs reseeded and are starting to grow.

In the house, the snake plants are amazing me.  The one that had started to bloom now has a second bloom.  I realized that this is the one that bloomed last year.  But now my other snake plant also has a bloom coming up.  Here's a photo of the first bloom which has opened:
Although our dog Ginny is not enjoying this warm weather - she's a dog who sometimes likes to lie down in the snow - our cat Dixie is glad she's no long has to sleep on the heat vents:

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Feed the Hungry

Make a Difference

I often see statements on facebook and other places that if you "click here" some corporation will donate something to someone.  Usually, these claims are bogus and so I never share them.  However, today I ran across a legitimate site for a corporation that will donate funds to feed the hungry around the world.  For every person who visits the Heinz Micronutrient Campaign page (found here), the company will donate $1 to the program, with a maximum of $100,000.  Please take a moment and visit the site.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

Spring has finally sprung here - although it actually feels more like summer (I'm not complaining).  Since I'm a little late on getting out my usual Wednesday post, I'm going to take the easy way out and just remind people to get off your seats and walk now that the weather is nice.  Almost anyone can do it and it's great for your health.  Below are some benefits listed on Rodale's website:

It can reduce your risk for diabetes.
It can improve your sex life.
It saves you money you'd spend on a gym (not a health benefit but still good).
It might help you get off medication(s) (both a health and a financial benefit).
It helps relieve pain from fibromyalgia.
It improves the survival rate for breast cancer victims.
It reduces the risk of stroke.
It lowers your risk of dementia.

And if you live in a city, walking can help you meet your neighbors and develop community.  If you live in the country, it can improve your appreciation of the natural world.  

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Quote for the Day

File:Illilouette Fall 08911.JPG
"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul."
~John Muir

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Something to Think About

The past couple of weeks I've been puzzled - and angry at times - about something that occurred to me.  

Due to the hard work and sacrifice of those involved in the civil rights movement, individuals today are protected against discrimination due to race.  Although it is supposed to apply to sex as well, it is far from true.  Women can still face discrimination, be treated as "less than," and have no legal recourse.  What I'm talking about is women in religious organizations.  Religious leaders can tell women they cannot hold the same positions as men.  Why?  Because they say so.  Because they hold up their holy texts and say they interpret them in such a way that prevents women from serving in certain positions.  Because they say it is commanded by God.

How can this be?  Why is it okay for women in certain religious organizations - Southern Baptist, Roman Catholic, Mormon, Orthodox Judaism, and Eastern Orthodox - to be discriminated against?  Prior to the civil rights movement, some of these same religious groups felt their holy books clearly prevented individuals of a certain racial background from holding priestly positions.  Thank goodness, this is no longer true.  Yet women continue to be discriminated against simply because they are women.  And the law allows it!  Proof to me that women are still second class citizens.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Farm Friday

On Wednesday we received an email message saying our chicks had shipped and that we could go to the post office's web site to track their progress.  I assumed we would get them on Thursday.  However, by Thursday night we hadn't gotten a call.  I checked the shipping information and it said that the package would arrive no later than April 6.  April 6!?  They could be dead by then! Fortunately, the local post office called first thing this morning saying the chicks had arrived.

Every one of the chicks made it safely through the shipping process.  And, unless I counted wrong, we have an extra chick.  We're brooding them in a children's wading pool in our basement.  When they're bigger, we'll move them outside to either the barn or our new portable chicken coop where we'll keep them inside for a bit longer.  

We picked up the new portable coop last Saturday.  It's large enough to house eight full-grown hens.  We're going to use it to put in gardens after harvesting so they can go in and eat bugs and weed seeds and also fertilize for the next crop.  

On a less exciting note, both my aloe vera and my snake plant continue to bloom:

Although spring is here, we still haven't been able to plant due to the rain, sleet, and snow.  (At least my houseplants think it's spring.) We actually got a wintery mix yesterday and are supposed to get more rain today.  We're fortunate that our CSA members understand that you cannot grow food when the weather isn't cooperating.  It's getting to the point that we might have to skip the spring crops altogether.  But that is the reality of food.  It comes out of the ground - not the supermarket shelves - and is dependent upon weather and climate.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

salt shaker
I've never worried about my sodium intake.  Since I have low blood pressure, it has never been an issue.  It was never even on my radar until I took a nutrition class earlier this year and had to monitor my food intake.  I learned that healthcare professionals advise individuals to limit sodium intake to more than 2,300 milligrams per day.   After monitoring my meals for a few days, I saw that my sodium intake was usually close to the recommended limit and even occasionally exceeded it.  Not a problem for me but I realized how difficult it can be for individuals who do need to watch their sodium consumption.

One problem with sodium is that it is often hidden in processed foods.  Even people who never touch the salt shaker need to worry about consuming too much sodium.  According to the New York Times, 80 percent of the salt found in our diet comes from foods that are processed or eaten in restaurants.  In addition, a new study reported in Huffington Post found that kids are getting far too much sodium in their diets.  While most prepackaged baby foods that were tested were found to be acceptable, some prepackaged toddler foods contained an enormous amount of salt.  Some tested foods had over half the daily allowance in a single serving and over 70 percent contained more than the recommended serving amount.  Overall, the study found that 70 percent of the foods consumed by children have too much salt.

Why is salt bad?  High sodium intake can cause hypertension, which is linked to obesity, heart disease, and stroke.  The Mayo Clinic says that high blood pressure can cause damage to the heart, the arteries, the kidneys, and even the brain.  

Want to watch your sodium intake?  Don't just worry about table salt.  The New York Times article points out it's not the only source of sodium.  We get sodium in our diets through additives like monosodium-glutamate (often listed as "MSG," "natural flavoring," and other misleading names on packages),  baking soda, baking powder, disodium phosphate, and anything with "sodium" in its name.  Meat can be a problem as well because the meat industry often plumps up meat by injecting it with salt water.

The bottom line?  The best way to avoid excessive sodium is to avoid prepackaged foods and to ask questions when dining out.  Even if you ask at a restaurant, however, the server may not know.  The New York Times article mentioned that a fast-food cheeseburger can have as much as 1,690 milligrams of sodium!