Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bread Pudding for the Dogs

What do you do with rolls left over from your holiday party. Make bread pudding of course. The recipe i started with calls for day old bread. This implies that you buy fresh baked bread made without preservatives every day and have some left over or you went dumpster diving behind the bakery and scored some nice bread. (be sure to cut off any green mold before you make the pudding). The bread i used is 2 weeks old and would probably still be intact a month from now. A little preservatives (as opposed to preserves) never hurt anybody. (at least not right away). I also used raw milk which cannot legally be consumed by humans in the great state of Georgia or most other states. That is why we are going to feed our bread pudding to the dogs. ( yea right).
6 left over rolls (i used some brown ones and some curly ones)
1 cup chopped and peeled persimmons (thanks again Robert) ( you can use dried ones Novella)
1 cup chopped nuts (I used raw, organic walnuts. I hope they don't start pasteurizing them too)
1/2 stick butter
3 cups raw milk (don't drink it it might kill you)
6 eggs from free range organic feed eatin' chickens (none of those tortured factory farm raised ones)
3/4 cup raw agave nectar (nutrients remember)
1 tablespoon vanilla (I like vanilla)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon (I didn't have any so i put in 1/3 teaspoon ground cloves)

heat oven to 350º
grease a 12"x8" pan or dish with some olive oil
tear up the bread and distribute evenly in the pan
melt the butter and drizzle over the bread
sprinkle the nuts and the persimmon over the bread
In a medium sized mixing bowl mix together the milk, eggs, agave nectar, vanilla, and spices
Pour the mixture over the bread
Press the bread down into the liquid so all of the bread is covered
Bake for 45 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly pressed upon

Allow to cool enough to keep from burning your mouth
Scoop out a big hunk, top with your favorite ice cream and gobble it up.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Shitake coming soon! (I hope)

One of the treasures we brought home from the workshop with Paul Stamets at Fungi Perfecti was a bag of alder chips and sawdust we inoculated with shitake mycelium. The mycelium has now completely colonized the chips and sawdust and is ready to be stimulated into fruiting. The method for doing so is to increase the moisture content and humidity by spraying the block daily with rain water. I made a humidification chamber out of a wire structure wrapped in stretchy plastic to keep the moisture contained around the shitake block. When i lift off the chamber for the daily misting CO2 will escape and fresh air will fill the chamber. Hopefully in a week or so mushrooms will start to form and we'll be eating fresh, nutritious mushrooms soon.
I've got my fingers crossed.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Holiday Cheer & Cupcakes

Our dear and generous friend Robert (aka Hoochman - more about that in a future blog) brought us some beautiful and delicious Asian persimmons he grew, all naturally of course. I decided i wanted to turn them into cupcakes. Being new to cupcake-making i made some mistakes but mostly they turned out to be very tasty and nice looking (some of them anyway). I wanted them to look festive so i made some icing into which i put some ground up red deer tongue lettuce which imparted a green tint to it. After applying the icng to the cakes i drizzled a little pomegranite juice over them to add a little touch of red. Voila, Happy Holidays!

The first mistake i made was filling up the cupcake molds too full. They rose up over the top and spread out over the tin making it hard to get them out. Many of the caps split off from the stumps. Robin told me later that professional bakers have the same problem so they sell the caps as a product. I felt better about my efforts after that. I got 12 whole cupcakes out of 24 potential ones. The lessons learned are to fill the cups only 1/2 full and grease and flour the cups and the top of the pan.

The second mistake was to cook them a little too long. The recipe i adapted was for persimmon loaves. It said to cook them for 1 hour or until a toothpick shoved into the loaf came out clean. I cooked them for 45 minutes and the toothpick came out clean but the bottoms and sided were a little too dark and a bit drier than i would have liked.

The last mistake was due to my impatience. Instead of cooking 2 batches i put 2 pans on the upper rack and 2 pans on the lower rack. Although the ones on the lower rack only cooked fot about 30 minutes the bottoms sides were almost burnt. Since one of the pans on the
bottom was a loaf pan i was able to salvage it by trimming off the sides and bottom.

So applying the lessons learned from my mistakes, here is my recipe for organic Persimmon Cupcakes. Makes 2 dozen cupcakes
1 cup persimmon pulp (about 3 persimmons)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 organic cane sugar
1/2 cup raw agave nectar (very nutritious sweetener)
1 cup organic extra virgin olive oil
4 whole eggs from organically raised pastured hens
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon sea salt (good source of essential minerals)
2/3 cup water
3 cups organic whole wheat pastry flour

Pre-heat oven to 350º - with rack in the middle of the oven. Grease and flour the cupcake tins including the tops.

1. in a small bowl chop up peeled persimmon fruit and mix in the baking soda
2. in a large bowl combine sugar, agave nectar, oil, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and salt. Blend with a whisk until smooth (you could use an electric mixer but it is a waste of energy and you don't get any exercise so just use a whisk).
3. thoroughly mix in 1/3 of the persimmon pulp, water, and flour.
4. pour into the cupcake tins filling them 1/2 full.
5. bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cupcake comes out clean.
6. cool for 10 minutes before attempting to remove from the tins. It is helpful to run a knife around the edge first. Remember, if they all don't come out whole, eat them anyway. They still taste good.

Holiday Icing:
3 leaves organic red deer tongue lettuce (or other dark leaf lettuce) (adds green color and nurtients but you don't really taste it)
1/2 cup organic unsalted butter
3-4 tablespoons organic raw whole milk
3 cups organic confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
1/2 organic pomegranite
1.Separate the seeds from the pomegranite and mash in a small bowl to extract about 2 tablespoons of juice
2.put the lettuce into a small food processor and grind into tiny pieces
3. in a small sauce pan melt butter, add milk and heat. It does not need to come to a boil. Remove from heat and blend in sugar and 2 tablespoons ground lettuce. Whisk vigorously (more exercise) until smooth and glossy. If too thick to spread easily add a little bit more milk.
4. Allow to cool for 5-6 minutes then spread over the tops of the cool cupcakes.
5. drizzle a 1/4 teaspoon of pomegranite juice over each cupcake before the icing completely cools to add a splash of red color the the green icing.

Bite into cupcake enjoying the spicy deliciousness as you chew thoroughly. Swallow and repeat until completely consumed.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Making it Real

Sunday was a very productive day here at the Funny Farm. We had about 30 people here for a workshop on incorporating mushroom growing into a diverse food production system. It is very satisfying to be able to facilitate the expansion of our network of like-minded people. We had people from Inspiring Futures/Bioneers, Southface, Pine Lake, Sowers and Growers garden club, The Urban Gardener, Piedmont Park Conservancy, Oakhurst Community Garden, Brownwood Park Community Garden all making connections just like the mycelia of the fungi we were studying. Out of this we are likely to get a new community garden in Midtown and we now have a atlanta permaculture group on facebook. These gatherings serve to strengthen our community and our ability to change to world for the better. We will be doing other workshops in the future to continue building our community.
At the same time Robin, Emma and Jennifer were busy making all natural soaps and lip balm while sampling some delicious pineapple guava flower hooch compliments of our friend Robert who came out to the mushroom workshop.
Power to the people, by the people!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

We're real professional farmers now!

There is a progressive community just up the road from us called Pine Lake. Through our blogs and network we put out the word that we were starting the Funny Farm to grow good organic food. I was contacted by a woman who lives there ( Hi Gwyneth) about getting some vegetables for a salad for 50 people for their progressive dinner party. So I hooked her up with the rockinest salad fixin's you've ever seen. Baby carrots, broccoli, red deer tongue lettuce, jericho lettuce, baby spinach, tatsoi flowers, dill, sorrel for some kick, 3 kinds of radishes, tomatos ( in December mind you).
And she actually gave me money!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Moving Forward at the Funny Farm

As some of you know Robin and I are closing our business The Urban Gardener on Christmas Eve at our current location because of the devastating consequences of the deepening drought and the ineptitude of the powers that be to manage the most limiting resource we have, water. Because the government decided to target the landscape industry in their pitiful attempts to reduce water use our landscape crew has had plenty of time to help us here at the farm. We built a cozy chicken house in the barn for a dozen hens. They will be moving in this spring. We look forward to fresh eggs and lots of poop for the garden.
We have been dissembling the garden center and moving materials out here to build stuff with. We made some terraces that will become home to asparagus and strawberries. We leveled out a spot where we are repurposing a tent structure as a greenhouse in which we will be starting veggies and growing reishi mushrooms.
I have been having fun using the dingo (its like a miniature bobcat) to sculpt the back yard to create some plant beds and a gathering space with a fire pit. My friend brought me a truck load of wood chips which i used to cover the bare disturbed earth. The fungal mycelium will do its job turning the chips into rich soil in a year or so. When we get our mushroom production going we will be inoculating the chips with mushroom spawn so the whole place will be mushroom heaven.
So i guess that is the silver lining in the cloud over our heads at the moment.
Sure wish it would rain, though. 30% chance on Saturday. Whooohooo!
Did i mention the pond is almost dried up. Pretty soon we'll need to have a big fish fry.

Monday, December 3, 2007

On Being Generative

Not long ago my adopted son, best friend, PhD candidate in community psychology and fellow world changer told me i was now in my generative phase of life. I said, cool... what the hell is that? She told me that we all go through 8(?) phases in our lives and at my age ( heading towards decrepitude) it is time to share what we have learned in our lives with the younger generation. in technical terms-
*a generative stage in life, a time to leverage life experience to help others.
*someone who believes in service to others and cares deeply about giving back.

Ok, that is exactly why we moved to the Funny Farm, to put into practice all the things we have learned about growing things, about ecology, about trying to understand our place as human beings in the natural world, as part of nature not separate from nature. This is the essence of sustainability. If i remember correctly the bible says something about human kind having dominion over the plants and the animals. Well that philosophy is what has gotten us in the mess we are in today. Mother Earth doesn't need the human species at all. When we become extinct she will continue on as if we never existed just like she did when dinosaurs or wooly mammoths disappeared.
So what is your point you must be wondering.
Well, to start the generative process we are having a get together here on Sunday Dec. 16 at 1pm with a group of people interested in permaculture to give them an overview of our plans for the farm and engage any who are interested in the process of turning the place into a model of sustainability in our suburban setting. We feel strongly that we can at least prolong our inevitable extinction if we take responsibility as a community for providing for ourselves as much as possible. We can no longer depend on a global system of industrial agriculture, and the corporate mindset to provide us with our most basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. If we don't immediately shift the paradigm to a locally and regionally based economic system that can provide us with our basic needs we are doomed. Michael Shuman in his excellent book The Smallmart Revolution said the following
Analysis of a typical food dollar spent in the United States by Stewart Smith, former Secretary of Agriculture in Maine, suggests that 73 cents go to distribution, 20 cents for inputs, and 7 cents to the farmer. Only a small part of distribution is transportation. Most of it is refrigeration, packaging, wholesalers, advertisers, and so forth.
Real localization means avoiding environmentally unsound inputs of outside fertilizer, feed, and additives. It means pruning away the vast economic waste associated with ad agencies and middle people. It means avoiding trucking food around either nationally or internationally. Account for these items comprehensively and fairly, and local food wins out environmentally over global food almost every time.
In the current issue of Acres USA (a great magazine by the best practitioners of eco-farming. everyone should read it farmer or not if you really care about where your food comes from and how what passes for food in this country affects you health) there is a discussion about non-organic additives in so-called processed food. One of the examples given was a company that wanted to be able to use non-organic annatto to make the cheese in their boxed macaroni and cheese yellow. WTF. Come on people what planet are you living on. Lets get back to Planet Earth. Please!!!!
If anyone reading this lives in the Atlanta area and would like to attend our little gathering give me your contact info in the comments section and i'll send you directions.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

This has been buggin me for a long time (haha). There ain't no such time as 12 a.m. or 12 p.m. a.m. is an abbreviation for the Latin ante meridiam meaning before midday which is noon. p.m. is an abbreviation for post meridiam which is Latin for after midday. Midnight separates the start of the ante meridiam from the end of the post meridiam.
Don't they teach kids how to tell time in school?
Repeat after me
When it is light outside it is 12 noon.
When it is dark outside it is 12 midnight.
Got it?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mushroom are coming

The mushroom cultivation workshop with Paul Stamets was great. There were 27 people attending from as far away as Russia, Mexico and Germany. A huge amount of information was presented over the course of the weekend. Paul is so passionate about what he does. It is very inspiring. He is committed to saving the planet with fungi leading the way. He and his team were going to San Francisco last Monday to provide oyster mushroom spawn to break down the oil from the spill in the bay. The oil was soaked up into human hair mats by volunteers on surf boards.
Paul says that the fungi mother the forest. They interconnect all of the creatures. This is the link i have been searching for during my whole career as a horticulturist and landscape architect.
I now see the Funny Farm through a mycelial lens. Everything we do from here on out will be mothered by fungi. We started work on our sterile culture lab today. Soon we will be producing mushroom spawn and inoculating the world with it so we can take advantage of all the nutritional and medicinal benefits that mushrooms provide us.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wake up Kodak

I bought a larger memory card for my camera today. The packaging it came in is a ridiculous and excessive use of plastic. A package within a package within a package wrapped in some paper with more paper inside. Just give me the little box the card is in and save the petroleum used to make the rest.
I did put in the recycle bin but who knows whether any of it will actually be recycled.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Portland, Or - A Model of Sustainable Living

We spent several days in Portland. I am amazed each time i visit there at how much progress they are making towards sustainable urban living. We visited Zenger Urban Agricultural Park which is a farm purchased by the city to protect a wetland behind an industrial development. They turned the rest of the farm over to a non- profit organization to be an education center for urban farming. A farmer grows vegetables and chickens on 3 of the acres that are sold at a CSA.
They have a community garden that is used by immigrant families to grow their own food. They have a solar power system and collect 6000 gallons of rainwater for use during the dry summer season.
There are lots and lots of restaurants that serve local organic food and they promote it heavily. We had breakfast at a restaurant/yoga studio that served their food on real plates and used cloth napkins. Imagine that!
We went to a farmers market that was started 15 years ago. It is held in the parking lot of an awesome food coop called the Peoples Market. We were able to buy salmon, fresh mushrooms and lots of vegetables for our dinner all in one place.
We visited The Rebuilding Center which is a Non-profit that recycles building materials. It was started in a down and out neighborhood a few years ago to provide jobs for local residents. Now it is thriving and so the the surrounding neighborhood. Businesses have moved in, houses have been restored and new construction is under way.
There are rain gardens all around the city that capture rain water and allow it to soak into the ground replenishing the groundwater instead of allowing polluted water to wash into the rivers.
We need to look to Portland as a shining example of what Atlanta can become through our collective efforts.

Burgerville, Fast Food Done Right

In the northwest there is a fast food chain called Burgerville. They use potatoes grown in the northwest. They use fresh beef grown naturally by a coop of farmers in the northwest. They have bean burgers, turkey burgers and milkshakes from seasonal fruits. There packaging is minimal and without printing on it except to spread their message. They offset their carbon output by investing in a wind power farm. Why can't all fast food restaurants do that?
Wake up Wendy's, Mcdonalds, Burgerking, et, al

Trashed on the road

I've been out west for 8 days. In the beginning i tried to keep up with my project documenting my trash, recycling and reuse project. As time went on I found that doing so was detracting from my ability to have a relaxing vacation so i relaxed my vigilance to some extent. However i did have some insights along the way. The first one is that other cities are way ahead of Atlanta on the path towards sustainability. Both the airports in Denver and Seattle have recycling containers readily accessibly throughout them. Wake up Hartsfield! The second is that it takes a lot of planning and discipline to eat healthy food and to tread softly on the planet while on the road. It has been suggested that we need to be more responsible about taking frivolous or unnecessary trips on airplanes anyway. I don't feel that was the case on this trip because i traveled to a workshop to learn about growing mushrooms. Once I put what i learned into practice i will more that offset the carbon expended on the trip by growing and using mushrooms and by teaching others how to do so as well.
More about that in future posts.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Go West Old Man

I'm headed to Portland tomorrow. I'll be visiting friends and touring a couple of urban farms. One is called Tryon Farm and the other is Zenger Urban Agricultural Park. Watch for reports and photos later in the week.
Can't hardly wait to get out of ATL!

Reuse, Recycle, Reduce


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Reuse, Recycle, Reduce


I know i'm an idiot for starting to smoke at age 50 something.

Advice to Sonny Perdue

Dear Gov. Perdue,
Here is my advice for solving our water shortage problem.
Require all the citizens of Georgia to piss in a bucket, dilute it with water from their showers and use it to water a plant.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Reuse, Recycle, Reduce

I use a fair amount of paper in my design work. I print on paper with 35% post consumer content (the largest % i could find at office depot) and I print on both sides whenever possible and i save used pages to print tests on or for internal use.
If anyone knows a good locally owned source for inkjet paper that contains a high percentage of recycled content please let me know.


Yes Pomi marinara is imported from Italy and it is packaged in a non-recyclable package and it is not organic. But it tastes great and they use it on Iron Chef America.
I don't feel guilty!
By the way, I sauteed the oyster mushrooms i collected the other day and put them in the marinara sauce and ate it over spaghetti (not pasta, spaghetti, remember spaghetti?) with romano pecorino cheese on top.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Reuse, Recycle, Reduce

I'll be putting the cardboard on the ground in the garden paths which i will then cover with wood chips, a layer of mushroom spawn, and more chips. In 9 months or so we'll be harvesting mushrooms in our garden paths. Cardboard is a favorite food of fungi and is a much better choice than landscape fabric under mulch because roots can't penetrate it , it is not made from petrochemicals, and you can grow mushrooms on it.
Someone posted a comment on yesterday's post suggesting this website The site provides you with the means to stop getting all those unsolicited catalogs that are mailed out by the millions every day. Below is an excerpt from a letter sent by Forest Ethics to the top 100 catalog companies about their practices.
Each year, US catalog companies send out more than 18 billion catalogs, over 200 for every family. Producing the paper for these catalogs has enormous negative impacts on the world’s forests, including endangered forests in the Canadian Boreal and the U.S. South – globally critical forests for protecting biodiversity and wilderness and stabilizing the world’s climate. Almost none of the paper used to make these 18 billion catalogs contains post-consumer recycled content. This is an industry-wide shame that must be addressed by reassessing your company’s responsibility for the welfare of future generations

Do something about it please.


Ok this is the dilemma for today. Aluminum foil can certainly be reused but this was wrapped around a turkey. I could probably clean it but with the water shortage.... also what if i didn't clean it well enough to keep the salmonella from developing? And what about using aluminum foil at all? Does it leach into the food and make us sick?
What would you do?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


We got our first frost this morning and it is supposed to go below freezing again tonight. I wrapped our beautiful lettuce up in a blanket to keep it crisp and nice. We sold some today to Little's Grocery in Cabbagetown along with some tatsoi and radishes.
Wow, we're real market gardeners now!


This trash examination project is like opening pandora's box. First of all if i had remembered that i had to tell the world about it i never would have let down my guard and gone into Wendy's for lunch. I told myself i was tired of eating turkey sandwiches for 4 days straight but i was just lying to myself because i ate a turkey sandwich about 3 hours after eating the wendyburger and frosty. (i really love turkey sandwiches)(especially the mayonaise, organic of course).
And then, when i was ready to shave, here i am faced (no pun intended) with yet another example of ridiculous packaging and throw-away stuff. I don't use any shaving cream or gell crap when i shave, I depend on the lubricant on the little strip attached to the top of the 4 blade cartridge that will eventually end up in the landfill for a million years. that's right i dry shave and i don't change blades until i absolutely have to. Yea, i'm a real macho man.
Maybe i'll get myself a straight razor for christmas. ( but think about all the medical supplies that will be used once and thrown into the trash) geeez!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


I went to the community garden today to harvest the last of the tomatos before the first frost comes tonight or tomorrow night. I got about 10 pounds in various stages of ripeness. Some of the green ones we'll fry up and some that are closer to ripe i'll wrap in newspaper and let ripen in the dark.
The excitement of the day though was discovering a big patch of oyster mushrooms. That was totally unexpected. I'd found flushes of them several times this year in the same place growing on the stump of a pawlonia tree that was cut down 3 years ago when we had an old house demolished to make room to expand the garden.
We'll be eating well for the next few days.
That just increased my excitement about going to Washington state next week to learn how to cultivate mushrooms from Paul Stamets and his crew at Fungi Perfecti.

Reuse, Recycle, Reduce

You can compost old cotton socks. Cut them up into small pieces before adding them to the pile.