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.