recently "upcycled" at the valley girl home...

every so often we need to replace our house broom, demoting the old broom into one that can be used in the garage or backyard. but this time around, lucy got a pint-sized broom of her very own. she's super keen on helping me do anything around the house--to the point where her "help" is more of a really cute (and slightly frustrating) hinderance. lucy was very often after my broom in a big way as i swept. no longer. jeremy just sawed off the top of our old broom and put the plastic cap back over the sawed-off end. a little bit of duct tape is ensuring that the cap stays on so that the jagged edge isn't a safety hazard. lucy's happy, i can now sweep in peace with my little helper nearby, and we found use for something that might have otherwise been tossed. pure success!

cleaning up the great outdoors is no small task, my friends. but lucy seems up to the task!


farm box wednesday, the thursday installment...

in this week's box: 

miniature carrots
yellow onions
heirloom cucumbers (i had no idea such a thing existed, and when i opened the box, i initially couldn't figure out what the long, skinny, slightly curved, striated green things were. it took a big sniff and a little nibble to finally figure it out!) 
3 ears of sweet corn
a bunch of basil
heirloom tomato mix (see photo below, which also shows a hint of the cucumber)
2 sharlyn melons (my melon mystery is finally solved--these are the same as the one in last week's box)

check out the tomatoes! this week's notes from the farm were on monocropping in the tomato industry--in thinking of a typical grocery store, it's clear that there's not a wide variety of tomatoes offered for mass consumption. rather, it's the non-heirloom breeds--which can be produced in greater quantities b/c of higher disease resistance and less fragility overall--that are exceedingly commonplace. monsanto, the nation's dominant agricultural cooperation (also the leading producer of genetically engineered seeds) is responsible for "buying up and then discontinuing crop varieties developed over decades that have allowed diverse, regional producers to flourish. in general, the varieties they  continue to produce are much more expensive than those they eliminate. more often than not, they are developed assuming maximum use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides--many of which are produced by monsanto itself." but of course.

the danger, of course, is of setting up national dependency on a single crop. i can kind of remember learning about the irish potato famine in school--a disease called late blight killed all of the potato plants in ireland, and an estimated 1,000,000 people starved to death. late blight happens to be sweeping through the northeast and mid-atlantic states this year due to excessive wet weather, and is devastating tomato crops. thankfully it's not causing mass exodus & death this time around--states hit by blight are able to bring in tomatoes from other states such as my own, which happens to be experiencing an excellent tomato season. 

"over a hundred years ago, the irish potato famine taught the world not to depend on a single variety or single crop. in just another decade or two, most of the world's entire food supply may be controlled by a single company."

on a lighter note, we had tomato, basil & mozzarella  salad last night for dinner, seasoned with a couple cloves of garlic from an earlier box, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. it was quite good. and lucy has slowly started taking to tomatoes--she'll eat the cherry ones plucked straight off the vine in our garden. proof that fresh = best. obviously. 


who hates chickens?

apparently, some people actually do. or believe, at least, that cityfolk shouldn't be allowed to raise them in their backyards. 

just finished up reading this article from the wall street journal about chicken-resistant neighbors in salem, oregon. there's a fight going on there to re-legalize backyard chicken farming, which became illegal in the 1970's. similar fights are taking place throughout the country as urban farming gains momentum--i read awhile back about a young girl who went to court stating that her chickens were pets and therefore as legal as owning a dog, cat or rabbit. i do believe she won her case and was allowed to keep 3 birds. 

well, i can commiserate with the folks who are being told that they have to get rid of their hens. technically, we aren't allowed to keep chickens either--and have been told as such by some government-type guy who came by checking for a building permit when our backyard studios were under construction. he said we'd face fines if we didn't get rid of them. thankfully he hasn't been back to check up. as far as i know, our neighbors have never complained about our ownership of hens--we try our very best to keep them quiet in the morning, but it's not always as simple as letting them out of their coop when the sun comes up. sometimes they get quite talkative when laying an egg. can't say i blame them, though!

articles like this one blow my mind. the quotes from the "naysayers" are out of this world as far as ignorance is concerned, at least in my mind:

"Eggs aren't even that expensive anyway. What's next? Goats? Llamas?" Her advice to hen-loving neighbors: "Get a farm."

i suppose that there are folks who are so far removed from the reality of our food sources that they can't consider why someone would go through the trouble of raising chickens when eggs are readily available in any supermarket. well, in my experience, it's certainly not to save on expense. though our coop was made from scrap lumber, we do have to buy chicken feed, straw, and thank our chicken-sitting neighbor with gifts of beer and blockbuster gift cards whenever we leave town. the reason we raise chickens is because it's an interesting (and sometimes rewarding) relationship--to provide care for an animal who gives something in return. it's nice to know that most of the time (and especially in the beginning when the chickens were young) we are obtaining our eggs from animals who we can be 100% sure are not being treated with any kind of cruelty whatsoever. but then, i am an animal lover and understand that others are not. or maybe some people are still in the dark about the super-shady practices of the egg industry--debeaking, forced molting, overcrowding, culling of male chicks and female hens over the age of 18 months (when first decline in egg-production occurs). sad stuff. 


where the $$ goes...

i've decided to keep record of where are food dollars are spent--it's something i did a couple of years back as well. since i'm trying to buy the bulk of our items at the farmer's market, i want to keep tabs to see if it really is more expensive overall. the idea, of course is that i'll be paying more for certain items than i would at the supermarket, but buying altogether less stuff, since junky snack foods aren't as widely available from the farms as they are in the grocery aisles.

$15 per week goes directly to our csa box. this supplies the bulk of our fruits and veggies, but we do need to substitute most weeks for things that haven't been included in a particular week's box--salad mix this time around, for example. box pickup was wednesday and no salad was included. so i made a trip out to a nearby thursday market to pick some up. 

here's how the $$ was spent at the big weekend markets: 

massive herb foccacia loaf: $6
5 organic pears (first of season): $5
bag of assorted no-spray peppers: $3
2 blocks of organic locally made cheese and a small tub of lemon quark: $14
5 dried sausages made from organic, locally-raised, free-range pork: $10
30 zucchini blossoms: $4
handmade apple tart: $7
handmade organic apricot & cherry conserve: $6
1 dozen free-range eggs: $3.75
3 containers of strawberries: $7
2 packages locally made tortillas: $6

grand total = 71.75. add in the $15 for the csa and we're at 76.75. 

the sausages, apple tart and quark were non-necessities that i couldn't (or at least didn't) pass up. what i really needed was olive oil, but couldn't bring myself to fork over the $20-$24 for the locally made, organic offerings (500 mL bottles) at the market. so i frittered it away on treats instead, telling myself that trader joe's just might have a california-grown variety available. if not, i'm sure that they have organic. 

what we'll need during the week:  lowfat & whole milk, olive oil, some sort of meat for a few dinners, very likely more eggs (our old chickens are sadly not pulling their weight) and maybe some pasta, which could have been had at the market (fresh) for $4. 

in a perfect world, i'd like to stay at $100 for the week's groceries. looks like it might not be possible this week, as lucy's milk alone is $4.99/half gallon (with $1.50 refund for the returned glass bottle). oil will be around $8. eggs another $4. still, i do think we're close--and certainly happy with what we've been eating lately. everything tastes fresh and flavorful. i notice the difference most in the farmer's market cheeses vs. supermarket cheeses--i am in heaven with some of the new types that we've tried, particularly a dry jack cheese made with goat's milk that we're using in place of parmesean on salads, pasta, etc. 

i suppose in all honesty, i have to factor in my cost of getting to (and parking at) the farmer's market in san francisco this week, which is the only place where the cheese and sausage are available. $4 bridge toll and $6 parking. there goes another $10. 

good thing i have apple tart to make me feel better. :)

the bread recipe...

for those readers asking about the bread recipe i used earlier in the week, click here and here. both are very good and easy, and can be done with a kitchenaid stand mixer instead of kneading. i, however, was so busy blogging about baking my bread that i forgot to actually take the bread out of the oven until it was too late. (yes, i also forgot to set a timer--i must be pregnant or something). 

so my bread was overdone. one loaf was pretty much salvagable and got eaten. the other 2 were on the far, far side of golden brown. sometime this week i will be looking into how to make croutons from dry bread!



i splurged in the checkout line at whole foods the other day. stopped in to drop off some more #5's, and 6 glass milk bottles (each is worth $1.50 if returned after use) and decided to hit up their salad bar for lunch. whole foods now supplies completely compostable food containers and "spudware" utensils (made from potato starch and soy oil). both great options for someone on the go. but at checkout, my eye caught on the cute reusable set of bamboo cutlery pictured above. each includes a fork, knife, spoon and pair of chopsticks in a cute carrying case made from recycled soda bottles (i picked the pink one). the case has a mini carabiner clip, making it perfect for the diaper bag. cost = 11.99. 

now it's very true that i could have easily assembled a similar set by getting a few thrift store utensils together and crafting a similar case. but sometimes a girl just wants to spend her milk bottle money on something special, you know?

if you're as in lust as i was, sets can be purchased here


farm box wednesday...

jeremy missed our box last week while lucy & i were out of town. yes, i'm tattling on him--it's all in the name of documenting our csa membership honestly for you loyal readers. you've got to know the ups and downs, right? right. the score now stands at 2 missed boxes. double oops. 

this week's box, however was full of good stuff:

the first big tomatoes--a variety of reds & yellows
zucchini & yellow squash
yellow potatoes 


an unidentified melon. our box comes with a flier that lists out the contents, along with recipes and notes from the farm on production, what to look forward to, etc. well, jeremy totally redeemed himself for last week's slip-up by picking up today's box, but forgot to pick up the flier along with it. so i've got a curious melon sitting on my counter. it's small, more oval than round, and has a light-mid orange tint to the outer rind. it smells like cantaloupe, but looks like no cantaloupe i've ever seen, unless it's some kind of odd variety. it's obviously not honeydew, casaba or watermelon. and those are the only melons i'm familiar with. any guesses? haven't cut into it yet. 

we slow-roasted the farm box potatoes and garlic with rosemary in the oven tonight for an almost 100% local, organic dish (can't count the safflower oil and sea salt). it smelled fantastic, i haven't tasted any yet but am looking forward to them for breakfast tomorrow morning with an egg, if the chickens happened to lay one or two today (crossing fingers, as we've already eaten through our dozen eggs from saturday's farmer's market). 

right now though, i'm saving room for freshly-baked bread, which is due out of the oven in just under 10 minutes. slathered with local honey, of course. i haven't made bread in quite some time--i'd forgotten how totally simple it is, especially with the use of a kitchenaid mixer and dough hook attachment--no kneading necessary. the smell coming from the oven is like nothing else, and organic ingredients are readily available. i was at costco today with lucy and picked up a bag of bakery bagels, ready to thrown them in the cart for easy breakfasts. my eye caught on the surprisingly long list of ingredients--i mean, there's not too much to a bagel, right? well, right there in the middle of the list was high fructose corn syrup. hfcs? in fresh bagels? back on the shelf they went. hopefully lucy likes the homemade bread (sweetened with honey) instead.


we're back...

our vacation was wonderful. i haven't had time to go through pictures, but i hope to have some up soon of little lucy enjoying herself on the river. she did great despite an ever-changing schedule--this girl was born for the great outdoors, travel, adventure and relaxation. well, maybe not the relaxation part just yet, but i see it in her future. 

as for me, the days did hold a bit of relaxation here and there. i managed to start (and finish) an excellent book titled "plenty: one man, one woman, and a raucous year of eating locally." i had started this book well over a year ago, but never had a chance to finish it. it got tucked away in a pile of books, and i unearthed it just before heading out the door on our trip. so glad that i did. it's re-ignited the spark that i have for eating locally. yes, our household does get a local csa box, but there's so much more that we can do to further our attempts in this area of eco-friendliness. 

the authors of plenty dedicated an entire year to eating items only found within a 100-mile radius of their home (or wherever they happened to find themselves). yes, there were some very slight exceptions to their rules, but for the vast, vast majority, they ate only what could be obtained within their self-set boundaries. doing so opens a can of worms as far as technicalities are concerned--are 25-mile chickens that eat 1,000-mile feed still laying eggs that one can consider local?

i won't give away more of the book--i'll just recommend it as a super-interesting read that attacks the way americans eating has evolved throughout the centuries with great insight and factual  information. our first day back from vacation found us at the ferry building farmer's market in san francisco, buying not only locally grown produce to supplement our farm box, but some cheese and meats as well. realizing that if we were able to swing it financially, we could also procure items like butter, bread, pancake mix, cornmeal, beans, honey, yogurt and milk there as well. i'm hoping that together, jeremy and i can make a greater shift in the kinds of food that we're eating, even if it means paying a bit more for higher-quality local goods, while sacrificing some of our junkier supermarket selections to make up the difference in cost. 

on the cheap side of things, our garden is finally ready for its first harvest: we've finally got zucchini & cherry tomatoes, with larger tomatoes green on the vine but there nonetheless. the eggplant and peppers are proving themselves to be quite slow. that's okay--we'll be patient. and lucy does enjoy her daily strawberry hunts, though finds are usually limited to one or two miniature berries. next year: a massive strawberry patch for my girl!


blogging break...

we're off for an 8 day vacation... 4 nights of camping and then 4 nights of a girls-only lakehouse getaway. i've packed a zillion cloth diapers (we'll have laundry access at the house so i'll be able to wash dirties) and half a zillion toys, books, and articles of baby clothing. is there a saying about how much stuff is actually required for such a tiny person? if not, there should be. i could totally use it right about now. 

i found a roll of paper towels in my camping gear. i had already packed a very large stack of cloth rags--and found myself with no desire to use paper--they now seem so very inefficient to me. we'll see how it goes. i did dry our diapers in the dryer tonight for the first time in quite awhile--i needed them dry right away so i could pack them up. someone do some line drying for me this weekend to make up for it, okay?

happy fourth to all! see you when we get back. 

lucy is 14 months...

"but i don't wanna wear the fourth of july hat, mommy!"

"hi, party people!"

"hmmm, 14 months. i'm still little enough to ride in my mini wagon, right?"
"uh, that didn't go so well. maybe i am getting too big..."

"guess i'll carry it instead!"

i can't begin to explain how much this girl changes daily. she's talking up a complete storm--today she said studio. no kidding. i mean, it sounded a lot more like "to-de-ooo" but she got her point across. 

other newly acquired talents (besides holding down a conversation) include: 

~petting the doggie gently (a major milestone--maizy is quite thankful)
~letting us know when she's hungry or thirsty
~waking up earlier than the chickens on a regular basis
~getting through the day without a morning nap
~getting bonifide cases of the giggles
~bombarding me daily with kisses and hugs
~saying and signing "book," then picking one up and pretending to read, babbling on to herself about who knows what. darn cute, especially when she throws in a few animal sounds for good measure:

bok-bok, moooooooo, bababa, nay-nay, woof, oooo-oooo-oooo (monkey), vvvvvvvvv (elephant), meow meow, rarrrrr...  gotta love it. 


farm box wednesday...

hey, we actually made it to pick up today's csa box. good thing--it was filled with lots of good stuff. check it out: 

yukon potatoes
heirloom tomatoes 
a grapefruit 
donut peaches (super cute)
green beans
sweet corn
a mini watermelon

all this yumminess is coming with us camping this weekend--grilled corn on the cob, green beans dipped in hummus, watermelon chilled in the river. the tomatoes will be used in a caprese salad (mozzarella cheese, tomato & basil). i hope to fry up the potatoes for breakfast one morning. the peaches are, um, already gone and the grapefruit will be eaten as is. 


and on the topic of local eating, it seems i've got a picky eater on my hands. as in, she'll only eat strawberries that are picked from our yard--totally rejecting store bought. funny, because she devoured the ones that came in our farm boxes awhile back. 

well, we've only got a few strawberry plants and they don't sport a lot of berries--maybe 2 or 3 every few days. i tried hiding store-bought organic strawberries in the foliage, to see if she would eat them. 

and what do you think happened with that? "no way, mom. i'm too smart for this stuff," said the look on lucy's face as she spit out those berries.  

can't say i blame her. the homegrown ones really are 1,000 times tastier-- perfectly ripe, juicy, sweet and sun-warmed. next year, we're totally planting a massive strawberry patch. just wait and see.