Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Goat Walk!

Our goats have a nice pen to explore, but we wanted to take them on an adventure. So, I went to PetsMart to buy dog harnesses (which ended up being too big, so we'll have to trade them in) and took the goats on a little walk on a nearby trail. Lots of space, and plenty of weeds to munch!

Brian's being a trouper, handling both goats for the picture!

Early in the hike, before the weed-eating began.

Brian and Dasha on a stroll (forgive the finger in the picture - can you believe I'm married to a photographer?).

Peaberry discovering the weeds.

This is a typical Dasha photo. "Hey, what are you doing?"

Peaberry and her too-big harness.

Gazing at the view.

Wanting to cuddle, even on the hike!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Garden Update

It's hard to believe that summer is winding down into fall. Part of the reason for my seasonal discombobulation is that many of the summer plants are just now hitting their stride. Although we still have many more green tomatoes on the plants than ripe tomatoes harvested to date, we did get 35 pounds of tomatoes last week and 41 pounds (and counting!) this week, so that's a nice change. Our peppers have also come on strong this week.

The summer squashes are starting to wind down, falling victim to the often-inevitable powderly mildew on the leaves. I've learned that a baking soda/soap spray can be helpful, but I think it would be better as a preventative (as we did with our garlic/pepper/soap spray on the kale this year), so we'll try to get ahead of the mildew next year. Also, much of our corn fell victim to some crafty raccoons, which is very disappointing.

In the past few weeks we've done our fall planting, with new crops of kale, beets, turnips, arugula, peas, and lettuce going into the ground. It will be exciting to return to these cool-weather veggies before winter hits. Once we've finished harvesting the gardens we'll still have work ahead of us. We plan on moving the beds to take advantage of our clover cover cropping, and wintering-over some veggies for next spring. It feels a little crazy that it's already time to plan for next year, but nature is relentless!

New York Times: Big Food vs. Big Insurance

Michael Pollan writes about how the proposed changes in health care regulations might lead to a shift in food policy. He suggests that once insurance companies can no longer deny or drop coverage for people with diet-induced health problems, the powerful insurance lobby may become invested in reforming our food system. An interesting idea, and a potentially powerful benefit of healthcare reform.

"When health insurers can no longer evade much of the cost of treating the collateral damage of the American diet, the movement to reform the food system - everything from farm policy to food marketing and school lunches - will acquire a powerful and wealthy ally, something it hasn't really ever had before. (...) But what happens when the health insurance industry realizes that our system of farm subsidies makes junk food cheap, and fresh produce dear, and thus contributes to obesity and Type 2 diabetes?"

Click here for the full article in the New York Times.

Harvest Week Starts Tomorrow!

Photo by Brian Kraft Photography.

The Denver Independent Network of Restaurants (DINR) comprised of the area's top restaurants, has created Harvest Week, a weeklong celebration of Colorado's exceptional produce and products. Harvest Week runs from September 12th-18th.

DINR includes some of Denver's most beloved restaurants, like Vesta Dipping Grill, Strings, Duo, Jonesy's EatBar, and Rioja. You can see a complete list of participating restaurants and view their menus by clicking here. Some examples of dishes featured during Harvest Week are:

- Smoked Colorado Bass with Heirloom Tomatoes, Green Chili Goat Cheese, Pepitas, and Peach Dressing (at Vesta)

- Prosciutto di Parma wrapped around Rocky Ford Canteloupe with Citrus Vinaigrette Dressed Arugula (at Campo di Fiori)

- Colorado Bison Chili spiked with Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stout served with a wedge of Oskar Blues Old Chub Beer Bread (at Jonesy's EatBar)

- Summer Squash Corn Chowder and Dill Pesto (at Tables)

- Caramelized Pears Frangipane Crostada with Red Wagon Farm's Honey Basil Gelato (at Olivea)

Visit for more information!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Greenhouse Aquaculture Use Support Needed

I received the information below from Teresa St. Peter, aide to Councilwoman Judy Montero. Teresa was incredibly supportive and helpful to me when I was having my own greenhouse issues with zoning.

Aquaculture greenhouses are, in my opinion, wicked cool. They're featured prominently in the work of Will Allen. If you'd like to learn more about him, you can click here and here. Please take a moment to send the email below (or a modified version of it, if you'd like to make edits) to your City Councilperson and your Registered Neighborhood Organization. You can get the contact info for your City Councilperson here, and your RNO here.

Dear Council(woman/man) _________________
Dear ____________________ (Registered Neighborhood Organization)

I am writing to encourage you to support the aquaculture in B-2 zone districts language amendment for Denver ’s current zoning code.

I believe that allowing for aquaculture in the B-2 zone districts would:
- Allow for a sustainable way to grow a significant amount of healthy organic food on a local level in a condensed area that produces very little waste and pollution – especially when compared to industrial agriculture and other existing business uses.
- Provide fresh healthy food in areas that are severely limited in their food choices. There are too many neighborhoods in Denver where people live too far away from good food choices and too close to unhealthy food choices.
- Provide local jobs.
- Provide training and education in one of the only growing industries in this challenging economy.
- Grow positive local community engagement.

While I hope you will encourage Denver City Planning Department to expand the aquaculture greenhouse use in the new zoning code update, I believe acting now to pass this proposed language amendment is justified in order to launch a specific aquaculture project that has the potential for being a catalyst for drawing other urban greenhouse agriculture centers here to Denver. Denver ’s economy certainly could benefit from such a healthy, economic boost. Similar projects have been undertaken successfully in Milwaukee through the work of Will Allen (featured in the NY Times), and are now spreading throughout the country.

The particular project I am referring to is the Urban Organics’ proposed aquaculture greenhouse at 47th & York in the Elyria Swansea neighborhood. Urban Organics’ goal is to bring an abandoned greenhouse back to life – spurring economic vitality in the neighborhood. The original building was built in 1928 and had functioned as a greenhouse up until three years ago.

Urban Organics aims to use the greenhouse to produce and sell locally grown affordable greens, vegetables, fruit and fish to the community. There will be a small “interactive market” on site giving children the opportunity to plant their next meal and fish for their current meal before going home. The market will feature educational materials on health and living a sustainable life. There will also be a whole sale component to the project where vegetables and fish will be sold to local restaurants.

As part of Urban Organics’ daily operation of the greenhouse, there will be countless educational opportunities for paid employees, student internships and volunteer participants. The long term goal for the greenhouse is to become a permanent fixture of hope, growth and change in the Elyria/Swansea community.

Why am I asking for your support of this language amendment right now? We understand that for Urban Organics to be successful this year, it will have to install the aquaculture system before winter due to the sensitivity of environment for the fish. Further, there will need to be many repairs made before the greenhouse can be refurbished to an operational level. Letting the property sit derelict for another year would be a shame when we can begin to add vibrancy to an already suffering community.

Please support this important language amendment that would allow the kind of positive, clean, healthy business that our communities so desperately need right now.

Thank you,

Contact information

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Announcing Cooking Workshops!

Cooking Workshops
Additional classes will be added to the schedule for the fall and winter. Look for Simple Indian Dishes, Soups & Breads, 30-Minute Meals, and additional offerings.

Simple From Scratch
Learn how to quickly and easily make delicious bread, soft cheese, versatile vegetable soup, and more!

Tuesday, September 22nd from 6:00 - 9:00
Tuesday, September 29th from 6:00 - 9:00

No-Knead Multigrain Bread
Homemade Mozzarella (served with heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, and olive oil)
Roasted Beet Salad with Garlic, Green Beans, and Sour Cream Horseradish Dressing
Homestyle Vegetable Barley Soup
Apple Dumplings with Ice Cream and Homemade Caramel Sauce

Cost: $50 (includes recipes)
Instructor: Sundari

Visit our website for additional information. Space is limited, so register early!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Eating Our Way Out of the Health Care Crisis

I've re-posted a letter by Chris Beford before, and I always enjoy reading what he has to say. He makes an impassioned (and quite logical) case for how eating wisely can help to solve our oh-so-expensive health care issues.

"As children go back to school and the raucous town hall meetings on health care end, one truth has emerged from both sides: the United States must do something to control health-care costs or we face fiscal disaster. In Michigan, the cost of Medicaid and other state health-care responsibilities threaten funding for education, roads and all the services we depend on..."

Happiness is...

... a full egg carton.

The chickens still have about 7 weeks before they reach their full egg-laying potential, but we're happy with how they're producing in the meantime.

We have 4 brown egg-laying hens of 3 breeds (Silver Laced Wyandotte, Dark Brahma and Rhode Island Red). I put on my detective hat and have been able to discern who lays what in terms of the different shades of brown. So, the gardening kids and I have fun looking at the eggs and identifying the mama.

All of the colors do make for a pretty egg carton. And one of our hens has a propensity for laying double-yoked eggs, so it's an extra surprise when you crack it into the pan!

"Everyone Will Know You're a Farmer Now!"

We recently pulled up all of the old broccoli and cauliflower plants to make room for the fall planting. As you can see, there was quite a lot of plant debris. Maia, one of our young farmers, observed the mess in my car. As she watched me prepare to climb in and drive home, she declared, "Everyone will know you're a farmer now!"

My life as a gardener included successes and failures, but the failures were relatively small in scale and only affected my family (who were so happy about the other fresh produce they were eating, they weren't bothered by anything else). But I've found that making the switch to "farming" and producing food for other families can magnify both the victories and the not-so-stellar endings.

Last year I grew a small patch of broccoli with lovely results. This year I (along with the hard-working HG crew) planted bed after bed of broccoli and cauliflower seedlings. We devoted quite a bit of space to these plants, so we were anticipating a good harvest. We watched the plants grow large, with big healthy leaves.

Then.... nothing. Or almost nothing. A couple of the plants produced sad little heads of cauliflower, but really there was not much else to speak of. The other gardeners and I looked at the seemingly healthy plants and shook our heads. We waited and waited, but eventually knew that the plants were hogging lots of great garden space and needed to go. So, the plants went to feed the chickens and goats. What a bonanza! They were thrilled.

I did a bit of research and learned that there are many reasons why cruciferous plants may fail to produce a head. Some sources said that uneven spring temperatures (long periods of cold followed by hot, instead of a steady progression) could be the problem. Also, over-rich soil can produce lush plants but no heads. Whatever the causes for this year's problem, we're going to scale WAY back on our broccoli/cauliflower production next year until we can get things worked out, and only then will we expand to growing it on a larger scale.

It's humbling to see that, despite your best efforts, nature isn't performing the way you'd like it to. And really, it's that - not my messy car - that really makes me feel like a farmer.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Westword: Urbavore's Dilemma - Final Harvest

Joel Warner from Westword has spent the summer exploring different facets of urban agriculture. If you haven't seen the series (or if you've missed a week or two) it's well worth it to visit the Westword website and check it out.

Joel started his series in May by sitting down with me and 3 other local urban ag folks, so he decided it'd be nice to end with a little potluck and discussion.

Many, many thanks to Joel (and his editors at Westword) for shining a light on urban ag in Denver. We appreciate your work!

[And thanks to Brian for snapping pictures. It's handy to have a professional photographer around!]

The Seattle Times: Number of Women Farmers Growing

Article sent to me by my sister-in-law, who lives in Seattle. It talks about some of the challenges women farmers face, but how the number of women-owned farms is growing rapidly.

The farmer they profile sounds amazing (and it's crazy to me that anyone would call someone who runs a 22-acre farm and produces 180,000 pounds of vegetables just a "gardener").

By Jean Guerrero for The Seattle Times. Click here for the article.

Queen of the Roost (subtitle: "Uh Oh")

A few days ago I discovered Rosemary on top of our goat shed, which is oh... about 8 feet tall at the top. Meaning it's 2 feet higher than our backyard fence. Yippee.

Rosemary emerged in adolescence as our alpha-hen. She's a lovely blonde Araucana, and she's a little bigger and more inquisitive than the other chickens. Any visitor to her barnyard - whether it's a goat, a cat, or a chihuahua - is likely to be greeted with her curious stare and a nice firm peck on the nose. No incidents of child-pecking yet, thank goodness!

So far, even with Rosemary's adventures, there haven't been any incidents of the chickens escaping their barnyard. They seem to like to stick together. I can always clip their wing feathers (which is permanent) if rogue chickens become a problem, but I'd like to avoid it if possible. I like keeping my chickens' wings intact for the same reason I don't declaw my cats --- I want to leave them their natural defenses, just in case.

Oh, and even though Rosemary is big and tough, she still gets kisses and hugs just like her sisters. She can't escape it.