Saturday, November 28, 2009

NY Times: Barn Raising

A great story about a chicken farmer in California who lost two of her chicken houses (and 1,200 chickens) in a fire, but received so much support from the community that she was able to rebuild and continue farming.

One of the issues addressed was the challenges the farmer faces due to lack of money. When discussing this, the article raised a point that's very important to me, because it shows how distorted (I believe) our values have become around food:

"Naturally, [the farmer] would like to struggle less. She'd also like to see the day when people realize that cheap food is a lie, and values have shifted enough so that those who pay $8 for a six-pack of beer or thousands for a plasma TV won't 'gripe about paying $8 for a dozen eggs.'"

Friday, November 27, 2009

Recipe: Turkey Stock

Stock is an indispensable part of soups and sauces. Escoffier famously said, "Indeed, stock is everything in cooking... without it nothing can be done." I love making soups, especially in the winter, and I've been consistently frustrated by the high price (and poor quality) of the stocks and broths sold at the store. I recently started making my own stocks, and have found the process to be both simple and deeply satisfying.

Stock has also been touted as having wonderful nutritional benefits. Properly prepared stock contains minerals from the bone, cartilage, marrow, vegetables and herbs used, as well as gelatin (which aides digestion and can help with numerous intestinal disorders). In folk wisdom, chicken stock has been used to treat everything from the flu to asthma.

A few notes on the preparation:

- Most stock recipes contain prescribed amounts of animal parts, water, etc. While I'm sure these proportions are well-researched, I've found that simply water plus ingredients equals stock. I'm a fan of cooking the stock for a long time, so I feel confident that I'll end up with a flavorful result.

- It really is ok to simmer the stock, uncovered, for 24 hours. For a couple of years I worked at a fine dining restaurant. There was always large pots filled with stock on the stove in the back kitchen. When I'd leave my office late in the evening, the pots would be simmering away. They were left on the stove all night. As long as the stock is hot enough to simmer at a low boil, it is safe.

- It's important to use cold water. This allows the ingredients to warm slowly, and release more of their "juices" into the mix.

- The addition of vinegar helps to draw minerals (like calcium, magnesium, and potassium) into the broth. You can't taste the vinegar in the final product.

- You'll notice that there's no salt in this recipe. I love this, because it gives me so much more control when cooking to add or omit salt as appropriate. Just be aware that if you're using your stock in a recipe that calls for commercial chicken broth, you'll likely need to add salt to taste.

- The herbs (except the parsley) are typically put in some sort of bag (called a "sachet") like a cheesecloth pouch tied with a string. I have some empty tea bags that I like to use. If you're in a bind feel free to just add loose herbs to the stock, but understand that they will float to the surface and could be accidentally removed with the skimming.

- Speaking of skimming, be sure not to skip this part. Impurities will rise to the surface, and will result in off-flavored stock if they're not skimmed away.

- Some recipes call for cooking the stock with the lid on, but leaving the lid off creates richer, more concentrated stock.

- Beef stocks generally begin with roasting the bones and vegetables, but this step is optional with poultry stocks. Non-roasted bones yield a "white stock" which is good for lighter soups and sauces. The "brown stock" made from roasting the bones and vegetables has a richer flavor. I prefer brown stock.

Ok... let's get cooking! This recipe has been adapted from "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon.


Turkey bones, fat, skin, neck, gizzard, etc. (do not use the liver)
One large onion, coarsely chopped
2-3 carrots, coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
Fresh thyme sprigs (optional)
2 bay leaves (optional)
White vinegar - 2 Tblsp. for every gallon of cold water
1 bunch parsley


- Spread turkey parts and vegetables on cookie sheets and roast in the oven at 375 degrees, until turkey has browned (optional).

- Secure thyme and bay leaves in a sachet. Place turkey parts, vegetables, and herb sachet in a large stainless steel pot. Fill with cold water almost to the top, then add vinegar (2 Tblsp. for each gallon of cold water). Let stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

- Cover, bring stock to a boil, then skim off the scum that rises to the top.

- Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook, uncovered, for 6 to 24 hours. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add the parsley.

- Strain stock into a large bowl or pot.

- Refrigerate (or set outside on a cold night) until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off the fat and reserve for cooking.

- Stock can be portioned into pint or quart containers or bags and frozen. Stock will keep in the freezer for several months.

For additional information about the health benefits of stock, visit the Weston Price Foundation website.

NY Times: Back to the Land

A beautiful story (with gorgeous pictures) from a NY Times column by Maira Kalman called "The Pursuit of Happiness." It was a wonderful thing to stumble upon - I'm so glad to have found it!

"Thanksgiving. Since the beginning, Americans have connected the bounty of the land and the goodness of life to democracy. Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison - farmers all - envisioned an agrarian society. We have since evolved into a very different kind of society..."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Save Those Turkey Bones!

Great stock is the backbone (no pun intended) of good cooking, and when you make it from scratch there are tons on wonderful nutrients in there, too. On Friday I'll be posting some info on the health benefits of stock, along with a super-easy recipe for turkey stock. But, before we can start cooking, we need the bones!

So, if you're interested in giving stock a try, save your turkey bones - along with the skin, fat, and whatever else isn't wanted from the turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Yahoo: U.S. Residents Fight for the Right to Hang Laundry

Really. I'm sure you may think you read the title of this post incorrectly, but it's true. Apparently hanging one's laundry on the line to dry - which is both ecologically and economically beneficial - is taboo in many areas. The neighbors consider it an eyesore.

How did we get here? Why is it more important to have a perfect neighborhood - with perfect lawns and no clotheslines - than to allow people to make choices about the way they want to live their lives? Our notion of sterile "perfection" is not ecologically sustainable, and it's expensive. Who gets to decide how the houses should look, anyway?

So much of what us urban sustainability & homesteading folks want ends up resulting in a fight because it runs counter to what the neighbors think should be allowed --- front yard gardens, backyard chickens and goats, clotheslines... I suppose if those neighbors were allowed to have their way, we'd all live in Stepford developments, pay a fortune to maintain our perfect grass lawns (even if we live in a desert), and buy all of our food in a package. How charming.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Help Start a Tool Sharing Program in Denver!

Quickly take the survey (link at the bottom) to help Denver receive funding for a tool sharing program.

ToolBank USA would like to hear from Denver, CO!

A group of individuals is assessing local interest in bringing a “ToolBank” program to Denver, CO. What exactly is a ToolBank?

A ToolBank in Denver would consist of a vast inventory of tools (ladders, rakes, cordless drills, wheelbarrows, and much more) available for borrowing by charitable organizations for service projects, facility maintenance projects, and disaster response. Typical tool-borrowing organizations include public schools, churches, nonprofits, neighborhood associations, community groups, social clubs, parks, cemeteries, and many others. The goal of a local ToolBank is to help community organizations increase their impact by providing quick and reliable access to an abundance of tools.

The ToolBank program originated at the Atlanta Community ToolBank in 1993, which now equips over 40,000 volunteers a year with a tool inventory worth a half million dollars. ToolBank USA was started last year by a generous grant from the Home Depot Foundation, and is presently seeking to collaborate with cities outside Atlanta to start pilot ToolBank programs. (Click here to watch a short video about the Atlanta Community ToolBank) The following survey assesses the interest level within Denver’s local community, and the more responses, the better! This is where you play an important role…

A 60-second Community Interest Survey awaits you at the link below, along with a chance to win a $50 Home Depot gift card for completing the survey. You can complete the survey multiple times - provided that you complete it on behalf of a different organization or company each time you complete it. [Example: a parent might complete the survey three times: once on behalf of his employer, again on behalf of his child’s school, and a third time on behalf of his church.] The survey is open to all residents in the Greater Denver area.

Don’t live in Denver? Kindly forward this email to your friends and colleagues in the Denver area, and ask them to donate 60 seconds to ToolBank USA by completing the survey.

Click here to take the survey.

link: - click on ‘Denver CO’

NY Times: A White House Chef Who Wears Two Hats

Great article about Sam Kass, the White House assistant chef and food initiative coordinator. When he's not cooking for the First Family or tending the White House garden, he's helping steer food policy. For example, he's trying to get healthier food into school lunch programs, a system he sees as too heavily imbued with fats, preservatives, and high-fructose corn syrup.

"Twice a month, President Obama's senior policy advisers gather at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to hash out strategies for improving the health of the country's children. Among the assistant secretaries, chiefs of staff and senior aides sits an unlikely participant: a bald, intense young man who happens to be the newest White House chef."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Please Take the Chicken Survey!

Denver City Councilwoman Jeanne Robb (District 10) has put a survey up on her website to collect feedback about urban chickens. The current permitting process for food-producing animals (chickens, goats, etc) is extremely expensive and time consuming. An additional problem with the current system is that it allows one neighbor to highjack the process if someone on their block is trying to get chickens. This neighbor may not know anything about chickens and how they're kept, and they may not even be adjacent to the property in question - but they can prohibit a homeowner from receiving a permit.

I've included a link to Councilwoman Robb's survey below. First, a couple of additional thoughts:

- I think the way the first question is set up is a bit counterintuitive. A "yes" answer to the first question indicates you want to leave the process the way it is (expensive fees and all), and a "no" answer means you want the policy to change.

- Note the language the Councilwoman uses in the survey. "Would you object to your next door neighbor having chickens without your ability to share your opinion through the Zoning Administrative Review process?" I haven't yet met Councilwoman Robb, but the way she's phrasing the question seems to reveal a bias toward the neighbor's "right" to influence whether or not there are chickens next door. If you disagree with this notion, be sure to say so in the comments section!

- Use the comments section! Remember that the city of Denver already has policies in place to deal with odor and noise issues. Why can't we just apply the same complaint and correction procedures to chickens and goats? (Animal Control has already said they'd be happy to do this.) The city allows residents to have cats and dogs - even 150 pound dogs - with minimum licensing requirements and fees. Again, why can't we just follow the same guidelines for food-producing animals?

Thank you so much for lending your voice to this discussion!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Speaking at Front Range Organic Gardeners' Meeting

On Thursday, November 19th I'll be presenting at a meeting of the Front Range Organic Gardeners. I'll be speaking with Kipp Nash of Community Roots. Kipp is one of my big inspirations, and the granddaddy of the Colorado NSA movement. Here are the details - I hope to see you there!

Organic Gardeners has another interesting meeting in the works! Please visit if you'd like!

This Month, Thursday, November 19, 7 PM, Denver Presbytery Center, 1710 So. Grant St., Denver 80210:

Kipp Nash of Community Roots and Sundari Kraft of Heirloom Gardens will speak about Urban Gardening.

Contrary to common thought, agriculture is not exclusive to rural areas. In fact, using intensive growing techniques, commercial scale vegetable production is possible in urban contexts. Whether by using a single, large urban plot or by piecing together a collection of smaller plots, urban farmers can grow enough produce on under one acre to supply their close community with a great deal of food and themselves with a healthy income. Along with the development of small business and the availability of healthy, local produce, the community benefits through new vigorous interaction and cooperation. It is with these ideals in mind that these groups have been created.

There is a parking lot on the south side of the building (which is also where the entrance door is!). There is also usually plenty of parking on Grant St. and Mexico Ave. if the lot happens to be full.

We're meeting in our usual fellowship hall space.

Front Range Organic Gardeners (FROG) is Colorado's oldest garden club (since 1987) devoted to organic gardening. Our group of notice and seasoned gardeners welcomes visitors and new members to the monthly meetings. The meetings feature speakers on timely organic gardening topics, as well as demonstration, plant swaps, field trips and social gatherings.

Linda Tegtmeier
Front Range Organic Gardeners

Monday, November 9, 2009

More from Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin is definitely a character, but I always make it a point to read what he has to say. He's a real-deal sustainable farmer with lots of experience using animals' and plants' natural tendencies to produce the best results.

And Joel makes a point that I very much agree with --- the key to the long-term viability of the local food movement is cooking. We have to rediscover our kitchens and the pleasure of cooking from scratch with whole ingredients. I'm sure our bodies will thank you.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Recipe: Patty's Pumpkin Cookies with Caramel Frosting

I would have included a photo of the cookies with this recipe, but they disappeared from the kitchen before I could find the camera!

Pumpkin Cookies

1/2 cup softened butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 cup roasted pumpkin (or canned pumpkin)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon

*I've been taught that, when baking at altitude, it's good to include a little extra flour so the cookies don't flatten when baked. When I tried this recipe the cookies tasted great, but were kind of flat. So, next time I'll add a little more flour.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheets

2. In large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the pumpkin and vanilla. In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the creamed mixture (do not overmix). Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets.

3. Bake in the preheated oven until light brown, about 25 minutes.

In the meantime...

Caramel Frosting

1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp maple flavoring*
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 - 2 cups confectioners' sugar

*If you don't have maple flavoring, just add a little extra vanilla extract.

Combine the butter, brown sugar and milk in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly; boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in maple flavoring and vanilla extract. Cool slightly, then beat in enough confectioners' sugar to achieve spreading consistency.

Remove cookies to wire racks; frost while warm. You may need to return the frosting to the stovetop to reheat from time to time so the consistency is right for the cookies.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Dasha and I recently went on a visit to her birthplace in Conifer. Dasha was born at Bohica Acres, a little animal farm and goat breeding operation run by Diana and her family. The purpose of our visit was to breed Dasha to one of Diana's bucks. That was a fun adventure in itself, but the best part was when we let Dasha visit the other does.

Dasha's mother (Lena) and twin sister (Violet) still live at Bohica Acres. The doe pen had 12 does in it, but Dasha, Lena and Violet only had eyes for each other. Dasha hadn't seen her mother and sister since she came to live with me 8 months ago.

[You can click on each picture to view a larger size.]

Right before we left for Conifer. Doesn't Dasha look relaxed?

Lena (mom) immediately to the left of Dasha; Violet (sister) behind Lena.

Getting to know each other. Violet looks a little like she's winding up for a headbutt!

Dasha (with the collar) inherited her stubborn streak from her mother. Lena is the boss of all the girl goats, with Violet as her sidekick. Before Dasha left she was also one of the alpha girls.

Family snuggle.

And an update on the breeding...

Pirate is a very handsome boy with blue eyes, and actually looks quite sweet in person. He REALLY liked Dasha. During our first visit to the breeder's Dasha wasn't interested in him, but after we gave her a day to fully come into season she was willing to "hang out" with Pirate. If the breeding was successful, Dasha's baby(ies) should be due on April 8th!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

6... Out of 14,314

There is an article in the Fort Collins Coloradoan about their recently passed chicken ordinance, which allows residents to keep up to six hens. When the ordinance passed there was a lot of contentious discussion about the potential problems of having these animals in the city.

Well, it's been a year, and the numbers are in. Over the last year the Fort Collins Animal Control has received a total of 14,314 calls. Want to guess how many of those calls were about chickens?

Six. Yup, six. Four of the six calls were for "accidental" roosters. It's very common to order baby hen chicks from a hatchery, only to have one of the little girls turn out to be a boy. The roosters were moved out of the city - problem solved. The other two calls were for noise or odor complaints that were investigated by Animal Control and turned out to be unfounded.

6 out of 14,314. Sounds like the hens are a HUGE problem for the city, doesn't it?

For the Milk

As anyone who spends time around me knows, I love talking about my animals. It's great to share my experiences with other urban-dwellers. Even if they're not at all interested in keeping animals themselves, it helps to redefine what's possible in a city backyard.

It's also fun because it helps to shed a little light on food and biology, and how they're intertwined. People ask about my plans for my goats and whether I'm milking them. I always explain that they're just now getting old enough to breed, so once they've had their babies then I can milk them for a time. And then - for almost everyone I talk to - there's a moment of realization. "Oh, I didn't realize you had to breed them in order to get milk!" Most of us city folk (myself included) grew up thinking that cows and goats were just automatically milk-able. Nope, they're mammals, and they have to follow the same biological rules that humans do.

So, today's a big day for our little farm, because I'm taking Dasha up to the breeder's to - hopefully! - get knocked up. We're breeding her to a (again, hopefully) nice, registered goat named Pirate.

Isn't he a handsome devil? We're happy that we're able to breed her to a blue-eyed buck. I really couldn't care less about the eye color of my goats. However, it's really important to me that I'm able to sell the babies, and a reality of the goat world is that the blue-eyed trait is less common, and therefore sought after.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NY Times: The Carnivore's Dilemma

Editorial by Nicolette Niman asserting that labeling all animal products as environmentally harmful is an oversimplification. Sustainable animal agricultural methods - raising the animals on grass in open pasture - is actually beneficial to the environment. Those who want their food choices to be environmentally conscious would do better to avoid factory-farmed meat, rather than skipping meat all together.

"Is eating a hamburger the global warming equivalent of driving a Hummer? This week an article in The Times of London carried a headline that blared: 'Give Up Meat to Save the Planet'..."