The Organic Life: How To Get There and More Market Fresh Recipe’s!

What does Organic mean to you?  I think everyone reading this would have somewhat of a different answer.  Personally,  I want ‘organic’ to be the way I breath, eat and sleep… it’s the life style I want for myself and my family… it’s a personal choice… you can’t make someone ‘believe’ it if they don’t want to or they don’t care.  An organic life style isn’t easy by any definition of the word… especially if you live in the city! No offense there my city dwelling friends! I have come to understand your back yard isn’t even your own to grow your food if that is what you want to do… that is unless you get ‘their’ permission.  This is incredulous to me… as many of you who know me personally and have leaned over my market table where we have vented together on these issues!  So many of you ask me for advice on chickens, gardening and canning… I wish so badly I could do more than just give you ‘tips’… but that is where it’s at I guess.  So today I am going to give some reference materials along with more ‘tips’ on how to get a piece of the organic life for yourselves… and of course some more yummy market fresh recipes!  Enjoy friends!
What are most organic minded people searching for in their quest for this life style that is sure to better for them?  How do they change their eating, their basic hygiene habits and all the ‘normal’ stuff they have done for years?  Well in today’s world of the educated consumer and the ready to make a dollar industry, the choices are by far greater than when I started this journey.  Just about every grocery & big box store carries an organic line of everything imaginable.  But this is only the basics right?  What about going deeper… like the know where the stuff comes from… who processed it… who raised it… getting it from the hand that washed that beautiful brown, farm fresh egg… that’s what the search is really about… the knowing!  …and it’s important, no matter what ‘they’ try to tell you! There is this instinct within you that just want’s to raise some of your own food in your very own garden, preserve what you’ve grown… canning some of your own pickles and making your own strawberry jam… bake some bread like grandma use too… have a few chickens, gather those eggs, wash them with your own two hands and then fry em’ up. There are so many roads to this life. I love reading about people who left the rat race and said enough is enough… they go out to reclaim what they know was a part of their ancestory… the simple life… where you can hear the crickets chirping and see the milky way up in the starlit night, where the ‘light’ pollution doesn’t distort it all… dirt roads and pasture fields all around… not screaming sirens and blaring ‘booming’ radio’s… the good life!  I can preach all this stuff because we did it… almost sixteen years ago… It wasn’t and still isn’t easy… there have been many bumps in the road and I realize that not everyone can do this… but I have never regretted it and I will never go back! 
           
Here are some idea’s to grow by…  * Growing your own food is probably the first attempt that most folks make… after all grandma & grandpa always had a garden!  I remember being a child sitting in the middle of the long pea rows eating those beautiful and oh so yummy peas right out of the pod.  Grabbing hold of that carrot top and washing it under the spicket and crunch!  Garden fresh goodness at it’s best!  You will never know more satisfaction in your life than planting a seed or a seedling, nurturing it and then eating from the works of your very own hands… your own sweat and sore back… you will savor every mouthful to the fullest and you will make sure everyone cleans their plate!
           
*Canning is typically the next step… I think for reason of necessity because you got a lot out of that garden and now what do you do with it…. along with the sheer desire to preserve some of that goodness that you grew!  There is much to be learned in this field but once you have your main supplies and a couple sessions under your belt, you will quickly become an old pro and look forward to the harvest!
*Finding your local Farmer’s Market… some folks can’t or simply don’t have the space for a garden, much less a chicken coop!  The next best thing is definitely going to your local market and supporting the farmers that work so hard to bring you all those beautiful piles of healthy food every week!  Knowing where your goods come from seems to be by far the most important element in this journey… As all our market friends know, I love to talk… especially about gardening and canning!  Be sure to talk to your farmers and producers… we are all usually pretty excited about chatting about what we do… after all it’s our passions that have brought us to you at the market!   
*Energy saving seems to be right up there in the importance level… wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all go solar or wind powered?  But again, reality needs to set in and that is not a possibility for most either.  Although when you shop local and directly from the farmer/producer you are saving!  You are saving fuel from the transportation of trucking in food from all across the country and the world.  Try using bio-degradable home products and recycling… these all help… every little bit counts! 
*Plastic is a big no-no to most as well… we love when our market friends come with their recyclable grocery bags and we try to encourage all to use them. We also encourage our customers to bring us their clean, empty plastic clam shell containers- we re-use them each week for the produce that goes into our CSA shares!  If you are at the market and you see one of the farmers selling eggs, most will gladly take your clean, gently used old egg cartons and reuse them each week as well.
*Body, Baby & Home care  products aren’t such a challenge any longer either… again, most stores carry organic lines and thankfully there are many on-line catalogs that supply a wide variety of products.  I do believe that this area is equally as important as the food we eat!  The harsh chemicals that we slather all over our bodies goes into the blood stream and I believe will eventually effect us in a very negative way!
*We even have the availability of organic clothing and other fiber products… again you can go to many farmers markets and find fiber producers.  They are often found by lamb, llama or the like farmers… these farmers then have the ability to produce wool, batting, etc. for you.
*You can incorporate these practices right down to gift giving. I know I have been guilty of not wanting to spend that extra couple bucks on so-and-so when they don’t even care about any of this ‘stuff’!  But you know what?  It just might be the seed that needs to be planted in a friends life… if you start the ball rolling with an organic and Eco-friendly gift they may do some deeper research or really like the product and then..

Here is a list of some really good books, magazines and sites that will help you on your way!

“A Slice of Organic Life”, Editor-in-Chief Sheherazade Goldsmith, Foreword by Alice Waters; Published by DK, discover more at www.dk.com

Organic Gardening Magazine, www.organicgardening.com
Countryside  & Small Stock  Journal, www.courntrysidemag.com 
Edible WOW Magazine, www.ediblewow.com
Taproot Magazine,
www.taprootmag.com
Mary Janes Farm Magazine, www.maryjanesfarm.org
Hobby Farm Magazine, www.hobbyfarm.com
Acres USA Magazine
Local Harvest,
www.localharvest.org
Local Dirt, www.localdirt.com
ATTRA, www.attra.ncal.org
Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Catalog, www.rareseed.com
Fedco Seed Company, www.fedco.com
Vitacost catalog- body/home care products, www.vitacost.com

More Yummy Market Fresh Recipes!
It’s summer and the bounty is on… lets cook!

Oven Dried Tomatoes
Tomatoes… as many as you like or have room to do.
Sea Salt
olive Oil
Fresh Thyme
Fresh Garlic, minced

1. Coat cookie sheet lightly with olive oil; preheat oven to 200 degrees.
2. Slice tomatoes about 1/2 inch thick; single layer them on coated cookie sheet; sprinkle with salt and fresh thyme leaves; sprinkle minced garlic over top- amount of garlic is a personal choice.  Experiment until you get the desired flavor you would like.
3. Bake for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, checking every fifteen minutes to make sure they don’t dry out. 
4. Store in freezer bag for up to 3 months or in refrigerator in sealed container for about a week.

Summer Time Salsa
10 Roma type tomatoes, chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
tortilla chips

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl; mix thoroughly; chill in fridge for at least 2 hours to let flavors blend.
Serve with chips

Bacon Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes
1 lb. Garden Gate Bacon… of course
1 pint cherry tomatoes~ larger types if possible, from Garden Gate
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

1. Set aside prepared bacon on paper towels to drain off excess fat.
2. Cut a thin slice off the top of each cherry tomato- discard tops.
3. Use the small scoop of a melon baller to hollow out tomato; discard pulp.
4. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and blend well; spoon mixture into hollowed out tomatoes. Refrigerated until chilled and serve.

Happy Day,
Jean

           

Decorative Garden Journal, Gardener’s First Aid Kit, Testing Old Seeds, Freezer Strawberry Jam & Yummy Heirloom Brushetta

“Flowers have spoken to me more than I can tell in written words.” Lydia M. Child

I often talk about my love for journaling and awhile back I talked about a Cookbook Journal I had made for my daughter Taylor.  Well, I also have created several Gardening Journals to show the progress of my gardens as the years go by.  It is fun to put the photo’s in along with magazine articles or pictures that inspired me to my newest creation.  As the years move forward seeing the growth and changes that naturally take place in a garden are both exciting and joyful.  This morning while I should have been busy harvesting, I just couldn’t resist taking a few moments to weed the Pergola garden and walkway… it is so relaxing for me… the cool morning with the light fog across the fields is so inviting as I prepare for the heat of the day.  Yesterday Taylor took the boys swimming and I had some quiet time… in my gardens… Well here we are at the end of June and I haven’t even given you a Strawberry Freezer Jam recipe… shame on me! Well they are still in season so here is my families favorite and if you were fortunate enough to be one of our Winter CSA members you got this in your shares… so here’s the not-so-secret recipe! Enjoy!

Tools and Materials that would be helpful in this endeavor: Ruler
Blank composition book
Scissors
Patterned paper
Glue stick
Bone folder or wallpaper squeegee
Craft knife
2-inch-wide self-adhesive linen tape- be sure the color matches your theme- can purchase at any craft store.

Customized Journal How-To
1. With a ruler, measure the front cover of a blank composition book. Adding 1/2 inch to all sides, measure and cut two pieces of decorative paper to size.

2. Apply a thin layer of glue to the front cover of the composition book including the spine. Lay a piece of decorative paper patterned or a photocopy of one that you have chosen side down on a work surface, and carefully center the book’s glued cover on the paper. Turn the book over, and use a bone folder or squeegee to smooth out any wrinkles; let dry. Carefully trim excess paper using a craft knife. Repeat process with book’s back cover.

3. Cut a piece of adhesive linen tape slightly longer than the book’s spine. Remove the tape backing, and carefully center the tape along the spine. Adhere the tape to the spine; use a bone folder to smooth out any wrinkles. Carefully trim excess tape using craft knife.
   

    As gardener’s we all should have a First Aid Kit handy in the potting shed or at least in the house.  Our garden’s have many hazards all there own and we should take precautions to be safe.  It harbors insects that bite, thorns that scratch, and other potential nuisances that may require simple first aid.
~ A basic kit should include the following: alcohol for cleaning wounds, triple anti-biotic ointment, cotton balls, bandages of all sizes, gauze and tape, Epsom salt for soaking, tweezers for thorns and splinters, organic insect repellent and sunscreen, anti-itch cream for stinging nettles and poison ivy, Benedryl, and of course some wonderful organic hand cream to sooth and soften your dry skin at the end of the day.
*Be sure that if anyone in your home has KNOWN allergies to bee stings you have an epee pen on hand at all times when out of doors.  Be sure to check with your physician for info on this.

Testing Old Seeds
Many of us are still planting and adding things into the garden.  We come across a spot that we are sure could fit one more thing in and decide to plant… what shall it be as we sort through all the leftover seeds? Or we may have some seeds that germinated spotty in the garden so we want to fill in and get a full row. Succession planting keeps us busy seeding and planting right through into late fall. With this in mind you will want to be sure your seeds are viable~ especially if saved over from last year.  I save seeds for up to 3 years, some think that is foolish, but I always do a germination test  and I have not had many disappointments.  This sounds much harder than it is, but anyone with water, paper towel, plastic baggie and seeds can do it~ really!  Seeds saved can be worth sowing — but only if they pass this germination test:

* Fold 10 seeds in moist paper towel, place in resealable bag, mark with date put in and the date germination if viable should take place, as well as the type of seed.
*Be sure to read on the package instructions how many days the seed takes to germinate~ add a couple to be sure.
*After the ‘day’s to germination’ have safely passed by, open the paper towel to see how many of the seeds germinated. *Multiply that number by 10 to calculate the percent of germination. More than 70 percent is passing. If between 40 and 60 percent, sow thickly. Below 40 percent, it’s best to buy fresh seed.
~Be sure to keep any seed you want to save for next year in the freezer in air tight freezer bags or plastic containers.  Also be sure to label any packages that may be tattered or where the labels may be faded. 

 Cute Personalized Herb Pots… make cute gifts or are a wonderful addition clustered together on your window sill or table top.  Personalizing them is so super easy, yet adds such a flare to the simplest pot!   Individually, they’re portable and easy to handle: Bring the basil indoors, for example, when making pesto, instead of stooping in the garden. When you plant the herbs, label the rims with a permanent felt-tip marker, and use these pots year after year!

Strawberries, strawberries… oh yummy strawberries!  Here is our families favorite Strawberry Freezer Jam recipe.  This is one of the few jams I don’t can… Strawberry Jam frozen is like eating them fresh picked~ there is no comparison with canned!
Strawberry Freezer Jam3/4 cup pectin – equivalent to 6oz. (like sure-jel)
1 1/4 cup water
4 cups whole strawberries (1 quart container)
4 cups organic raw sugar
*Following the instructions, especially with the amount of sugar is crucial to have proper set up!  DON’T SKIMP ON THE SUGAR!!!!
1. De-stem berries and then crush berries in a bowl; add sugar and stir for 3 minutes until sugar is dissolved. Let stand for 10 minutes.
2.  Boil pectin and water for exactly one minute and 45 seconds!  Start timing when the mixture is at a rolling boil.
3. As soon as the time is up add the pectin mixture to the strawberry mixture slowly pouring in and continually stirring for 3 minutes to dissolve sugar completely!  It will be grainy if it is not stirred long enough.
4. Pour into either freezer containers or canning jars.  Leave 1 inch head space in either container.
5. Let set on your counter for 24 hours before freezing.
Super yummy!

Heirloom Tomatoes, fresh garlic and just picked basil… this all adds up to Brushetta at our home! Here is our families favorite recipe!
Brushetta
1 loaf Persian Bread from Sunflour Bakehaus or a loaf of fresh bread.
7-8 Roma tomatoes or 4 to 5 large ones, diced~from Garden Gate~ multi colored looks best!
2 fresh garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. sea salt or earth salt
1/2 cup olive oil from The Olive Oil Store, plus extra for brushing on bread
1/2 cup fresh snipped basil leaves from Garden Gate
Fresh Parmesan Cheese
1. In a 2 quart bowl put chopped tomatoes; sprinkle salt over top. Let set for about 10 minutes.
2. In the mean time snip basil finely; add basil, minced garlic and 1/2 cup olive oil to tomatoes; stir gently as not to mash the tomatoes. Place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving so flavors blend.
3. Just before serving, cut bread into 2-3 inch wide pieces, then slice diagonally; lay on a cookie sheet and brush olive oil onto one side, flip over and brush oil on other side; place in oven under low broiler and toast until golden, about 1-2 minutes; flip and brown other side.
4. Top bread with brushetta topping; grate fresh Parmesan over top.  Serve immediately.

Happy Day,
Jean