Farm Beginnings: Bacchanalian Burn Bonanza

The hickory tree on the left is perhaps 55 feet tall.

Join us for a Bacchanalian Burn Bonanza!

Bacchus is not a controllable god (as you may remember from your Euripides in school) - and neither, it turns out, is fire. My lesson from burning a pile of wood 25 feet wide and 15 feet tall is this - don’t have any guests nearby but do have an excavator.

The moat of dug earth preventing the fire from spreading to the tall grass.

Don’t have any guests nearby because it is hard enough to watch the large fire catch the grass on fire without having witnesses join you in trepidation. Also, it felt better to have a smaller more sober crowd for when the fire marshall showed up to make sure we had everything under control. It is only because of the excavator that we were anywhere near under control.

The excavator is necessary because as the grass scorches along the ground outward from the fire, the excavator can dig a moat around the area. Helpless, I watched sparks fly into the tall grass. The excavator quickly would rotate on the treads, tamp those out with the bucket, and turn back quickly towards the the line of fire. “Behind you!,” I wanted to shout, “the grass is burning towards the tall grass behind you and on the left, and on the right and did you see it on the other side? The other side is moving fast and...”

and then it was over.

Still smoking the next morning.

45 minutes after the flames were reaching 30-40 feet into the air, the intense heat pulled the dry wood down upon itself and the focal point of our Bacchanalian Burn Bonanza celebration turned into Mordor.

But I am learning that even Mordor can be put to good use, our neighbors with the horse farm will take the ash and spread it on their pastures for the potash and the lime.

Cheering to sharing with neighbors.

(Here is a video of the fire starting, a haybale was drenched in diesel fuel and lit on fire...)

Farm Beginnings is the chronicle of a city girl starting to farm. Last installment Corinna spoke of growing what the deer won’t eat. Today she gives an update on the land.

I Love My Farmers Market Celebration: A Great Way to show Farmers and Farmland Love!

FarmMarket_logo_for_Microsoft_DocumentsI Love My Farmers Market Celebration marks the fifth year American Farmland Trust (AFT) has thrown a party for our nation’s farmers markets. They want eaters to pledge dollars we intend to spend at our farmers markets to highlight the pivotal role markets play in keeping farmers on their land.

We love this celebration for several reasons:

  • The first time a consumer pledges they will receive a No Farms No Food® bumper sticker, which rocks.
  • You can pledge every 24 hours (hint hint! Market managers!! hint hint!! set a reminder in your phone!!)
  • AFT's goal is to receive 1 million dollars in pledges before the celebration concludes September 9, 2013. One pledge = A commitment to spend $10 at your farmers market that week.
  • Instead of being a competition between markets to see who will win a contest, it is a celebration of all markets to see who can raise the most amount of money. That feels very inclusive and kind to us.
  • Over an acre of farmland is lost a minute to development. Once land is paved over that's it - no more tomatoes, or piggies, or wiggling your toes in the grass while chickens give themselves dustbaths in the sun. Since 1980, AFT is the only nonprofit dedicated to protecting farmland (check out their website, they really helped win federal $$ over the years for conservation easements and land banks).

The pledging process is very simple, simply fill out the information on lovemyfarmersmarket.org. Then set a reminder on your phone and pledge again (lets put it this way, we find it difficult to spend just $10 at the farmers market.)

As AFT's VP of External Affairs Susan Sink states, "I Love My Farmers Market Celebration is about celebrating the unique qualities of farmers markets throughout the nation and the important role that these markets play in keeping family farmers on the land."

Cheers to keeping family farmers on their land and cheers to the role farmers markets play!! 

Here is the post on Real Time Farms!

Farm Beginnings: Boxwood; Loving What the Deer Don’t

Farm Beginnings is the chronicle of a city girl starting to farm. Last installment Corinna spoke to why she farms. Today she speaks of farming with deer and boxwoods.

Farming with deer might bring visions of Bambi and all of his cousins running around a field prior to harvest into delicious venison steaks. That is not what I am talking about. No, farming with deer is growing goodies I want to eat/enjoy without having the deer demolish them first.

I have a very complicated relationship with deer. I love to watch them run and jump and whisk their tales and yes, I have seen Bambi. Yet I feel the anthropomorphization of the deer population by Disney has adversely affected the biodiversity of our forests. I also like eating them - they are a good source of protein (free range anyone?) and delicious.

Part of planning where to plant goodies on the land involves protecting them from the deer. Deer like to eat most everything in the garden I want to eat and certainly many of the ornamental plants that I would like to smell and look at.

My first step is to plant boxwoods, a trick I learned from Toby Hemenway's book, Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. Deer don’t like boxwoods. According to a recent NY Times article, “boxwood contains alkaloids that are toxic to deer.” (and a small side note for me to thank them for such a great title). I plan to use boxwood as a fence.

Boxwoods appeal to me for several reasons. They are evergreen, we are renting in an apartment that has many full grown specimens of the slow-growing plant, and I was curious to try propagating from cuttings. I know I am going to be needing a lot of them to make a shield of any utility and the idea of purchasing 50 plants at 20 dollars each was not exciting.

After two months, no evidence of roots - but also only one has yellowed. I am hopeful.

I read recently a book that described a woman who started her arboretum, now filled with 70 foot trees, from seed. “It was cheaper, and she was quite frugal, which is considered sustainable today. She would trade seeds. As she said, plants people share; antiques people don’t share.”

Inspired to be frugal, I purchased Dip N’Grow, and following the directions snuck out very early 2 months ago to barely prune the boxwoods around my apartment. I dipped them into the solution and popped them into the earth. As I lifted the small cuttings from the soil this morning, I did not see any indication of root growth - but Martha Stewart says that it can take up to 3 months.

Besides, it is more fun to sneak out in the early morning before my neighbors are up to take cuttings than to contemplate the cost of a deer fence.

Here is the article on Real Time Farms.

Farm Beginnings: We Farm because Seeds Grow

Farm Beginnings is the chronicle of a city girl starting to farm. Last installment Corinna spoke of farming trees for the wood stove. Today she speaks to why she farms.

A few weeks ago I gently tucked tiny black and silver specks into wet soil. I placed plastic covers over the soil, put the flats under a sunlamp on the radiator and waited. The soil was very wet. I did not disturb the flats at all, water condensed on the inside of the mini plastic greenhouses.

Four weeks later there is a green carpet of tender strong dynamic life reaching upwards, unfurling new leaves with the courage of a new day.

The flecks of seeds GREW!!

That is what this whole thing is all about.

Sigh.

In my Master Gardener class a few years ago, the teacher stood at the front of the room the first day and asked us, “Why are you here?” Responses varied: “I love to garden,” “I volunteer at a farm,” “I want to keep my husband company when he gardens,” “I like to grow my own food.”

She listened patiently and then summarized all of the disparate sharing into one shooting star, “You are here because once upon a time, maybe when you were young, you planted something and it grew.”

It grew! Without any sleepless nights, or bank loans, or driving across town running late to an appointment, or jealousy, or broken hearts, or any of the beautiful facets of our human existence - you can place a tiny seed into moist dark earth, show it the sun, and the universe will give you a tree.

Or sunflowers, or kale, or barley your animals can eat. It is the most humbling and beautiful thing to me. On the days when I think I need to be in charge, or even may want to be in charge, am I kidding?

The universe can grow a tree.

Beyond Grateful.

Here is the post on Real Time Farms.

Farm Beginnings: Farming Trees for the Wood Stove

Farm Beginnings is the chronicle of a city girl starting to farm. Last installment Corinna spoke of inoculating logs with fungus plugs. Today she speaks of farming trees and splitting firewood.

Splitting wood as people have done for hundreds of years.

When I think of farming, I think of neat rows of greens interspersed with chickens and a cow in a field or endless rows of corn - but as you know, one can “farm” many things: honey, Christmas trees, apricots, maple syrup, hickory nuts, mushrooms, etc. As I become more and more excited about perennial cultivation instead of annual plantings (my bedside table is currently groaning under the two volume tome Edible Forest Gardens), I am beginning to shift my timeline for what farming can encompass - like the farming of trees.

Tree farming is a long term endeavor. I think immediately of the story from one of the Oxford Colleges where they planted oak trees when the college was founded in the 1400s; 450 years later they had the wood they needed to replace the 2 feet wide and 45 feet long beams in the dining hall. That kind of forethought and planning is a long cry from the annual gratification of most vegetable farming.

A wood splitter is the easiest way to crack the big logs.

According to the rings I counted on the trees we harvested when the land was cleared, most were probably around 50 years old, and most were around the diameter of my hug. (They would not have worked for the Oxford College dining hall.) Fifteen years before I was born these trees started taking in the sunlight and turning it into carbon. This winter we will release that carbon back into the atmosphere when we heat our house. On a side note, I am sure you read that we are just about to cross over 400 ppm for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - but that is a whole different can of worms.

Or is it? Living in a northern climate means we need to keep ourselves warm somehow in the winter. After three layers of long underwear and a few thick wool sweaters, it is still nice to not have to wear gloves inside the house when cooking, or typing, or reading a book. So therefore what are our choices? We can heat our farm with propane (economical these days thanks to fracking). Or we can heat our buildings with electricity - generated from coal, natural gas, biomass, or the 13.2% garnered from renewable sources. We could add solar panels and insulate the heck out of the house (thank you Transition Challenge Month for listing those as energy challenge ideas), but the sun goes down every night and it is nice to be warm in bed. Ideally we would not be adding more carbon to the environment at all, but that is not the current reality most of us live in.

Hopefully this will last us at least two winters.

Using wood to heat our house will be one way we can reduce our carbon emissions to help the Keeling Curve return to the 350 ppm so touted and celebrated by 350.org.

Because at the end of the day an issue that seems like a Gordian Knot the size of a fire breathing Leviathan is really very simple. I don’t think anyone but Mother Nature knows how to plant more propane or coal, but I know I can plant more trees.

Here is the post on Real Time Farms!

Let Transition Challenge Month Begin!!

Transition-Challenge-LogoTransition Challenge Month, yup. Brought to you by the Transition United States, yup. Clearer now? Until I was asked to teach a Backyard Chicken class for a Reskilling Festival co-hosted by Transition Ann Arbor, I did not know either. Nor had I heard the phrases "peak oil" or "energy descent." But in my humble opinion, the Transition movement is awesome.

Awesome in the sense I am in awe.  Committed people walking the walk - building communities through reducing local energy use, reusing materials for building, reducing reliance on new items, educating a new generation in such practices, creating local currency, and (of course) focusing on the role of food (they LOVE local food).

And why? Peak Oil and Energy Descent!

Peak Oil is the term used to describe the point at which "the maximal rate of petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production is expected to enter terminal decline." The exact tip of the bell curve is debated, but most experts seem to agree that the oil that is remaining to us will cost more and more energy to extract (ie it has peaked, but no one is committing to that position). (Offshore drilling or shale oil extraction compared to the bygone days of black gold striking Clampetts for those of you who like visual comparisons.)

Three years ago a member of the Transition Ann Arbor group shared with me what distinguishes the Transition Towns Movement from the other groups involved in local and self-sufficient food, transportation, and reducing energy paradigms. “It is the assumption of energy descent. It is a notion that, to move forward we actually need to ramp down our energy use substantially. Nothing that we have out there, in terms of the green technologies out there is actually going to replace the oil infrastructure that we have right now...What we want to do is creatively descend in our energy use, not ramp up to try to replace the technologies that oil has given us."

As I type at my computer, surrounded by my digital camera, cell phone, camera, television, and looking out at the streetlights glowing in the rain, I think I know of what she speaks.

This is the month to get involved. There is a national transition challenge happening throughout May focussing on five great areas:

Take food, for example. You can start a garden, get backyard chickens, plant a fruit tree to trade with your neighbor who gets chickens, plant a row for a local food bank (and check out AmpleHarvest to find your local bank!), start a worm bin, make your own bread, preserve (kombucha is delicious!), save seeds, etc etc...

The Transition Challenge in 2012 logged over 4000 actions. Register your Action, check out their Action Map to see what is happening around you. This year they partnered with HomeGrown.org offering HomeGrown 101 where you can learn about container gardening, backyard chickens, how to make a rain barrel, or even your own laundry detergent (among many more!).

Though I may not be the best at riding my bicycle in the rain, or always taking the extra 10 minutes to hang my clothing on the clothes line - it is nice to know there is a community of people committed to safeguard our beautiful earth and its resources by thinking outside of the paradigm of abundant oil - and dare I say, their calf muscles are all the stronger for it.

For those of you who are still curious to learn more, here is a TED talk given by the co-founder of the Transition Network, Rob Hopkins.

Here is the piece on Real Time Farms!

Farm Beginnings: Chipping Mulch

Farm Beginnings is the chronicle of a city girl starting to farm. Last installment Corinna spoke of clearing the land of trees. Today she speaks to chipping your own mulch. I learned the difference between “gym fit” and “farm fit” this weekend. I am barely gym fit and I am nowhere near farm fit.

I am standing on top of the brush pile at the beginning of the weekend.

Imagine a pile of twisted laundry - except that it is made out of various logs and twigs, heavy, full of splinters, and 9 feet high and 12 feet wide. Imagine dismantling that pile in order to hoist the heavy wood to a machine that is fearsome in the Fargo sense of the word.

The machine grabs with its dual rotating jaws the edges of 10 inch wide logs, small twigs, or entire cedar trees. The log that we were barely able to manuever is devoured like a teenage boy inhaling a piece of pizza. Oh and make sure to get out of the way - as the log enters the mouth of the machine, it will twist and move, so any branches that are still attached will whack you on the way in if you stand too close.

Let me take a step back and explain this more completely.

I like mulch. It retains moisture in the soil as it decomposes. You can plant potatoes and make a mound of mulch and easily dig them out in a few months.

Mulch also means you don’t have to weed as often. And if you really want to splurge, you can find cocoa shell mulch (perhaps for a herb garden), and your garden will smell like chocolate when it rains.

It struck me as crazy to go out and purchase mulch when we have a huge pile of brush from clearing the land that we could chip and turn into mulch. So I rented a 6 inch wood chipper delivered to the land on Saturday morning, to be picked up on Monday.

Up drives this truck with a yellow machine on the back. The delivery man gets out, takes a look at our small pile of brush in the woods, and a look at the HUGE pile of brush in the middle of the field. “Too bad they didn’t put this small pile on the big pile in the field. That way you could burn all of it.”

“I asked them not to.”

“Why?”

“Because I want to mulch as much as I can.”

“Really?”

“Yes, that is why I ordered the wood chipper.”

(Truth is, as they say, stranger than fiction.)

The bemused gentleman looks with a renewed eye at the smaller pile of brush. “Hmmm, this is the 6 inch chipper. I could run back and get the 12 inch one? That would eat through the pile in no time.”

“Sounds good, and in the meantime we will start laying out the wood.” My husband smiles at me.

Laying out the brush the morning of the second day before feeding the machine.

Lesson number one from wood chipping, always get the biggest machine you can. Lesson number two, “laying out the wood” is easier said than done.

Writing this, I feel naive but I did not grok how difficult it would be to untangle 12 foot branches and logs, piled willy nilly on top of each other. We tugged, we pulled, we lifted, we strained, we grunted, we heaved, and eventually the pile started to feel more manageable.

I have 32 bruises on my legs from tripping over sticks, falling into the pile as the wood moved, or carrying logs and running into other logs. I am grateful it was cool enough that I had several layers of clothing on, or it may have been much worse.

After laying out the wood, one feeds it into the machine. As I mentioned above this is a loud, fearsome, powerful, intimidating machine that takes the heavy wood and moves it like a piece of cotton fluff. Here is a little sample (watch the volume on your computer).

After two days of this task - here are my conclusions.

  1. The best wood for chips are the actual logs, not the brush/twigs. Therefore there is a diminishing return on labor to feed in the smaller stuff.
  2. Not counting our labor, we spent $600 on the machine (including delivery and fuel) for the weekend. We ended up with perhaps 10-12 cubic yards of mulch. In Rhinebeck, NY the village will deliver to mulch to me for $20 and each cubic yard is $20 - 11 yards at those prices would be $240.
  3. The proffered option of burning the big pile looks more and more attractive after this weekend of doings.

Live and learn, and the bruises are fading.

Here is the post on RealTimeFarms.com

Farm Beginnings: Clearing the land of trees

Farm Beginnings is the chronicle of a city girl pulled into farming. Last installment Corinna spoke of the why that brought her to farming. Today she speaks to clearing the land of trees.

The oak, cherry, and hickory logs are piled high in front of the brush piles and the stumps.

“I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees... which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please.” That is how I am feeling this week.

It is difficult to watch majestic sturdy creations crashing down and portioned up. I am disturbing the habitat of birds, furry nocturnal creatures, and the soil - all so I can indulge in my self-sufficient quest and live more in “harmony” with the land. Beautiful bird nests used to swaying 55 feet in the air are catapulted into brush piles.

To this I answer - the trees must be repurposed to good use. That is my pledge to the dryads of the forest.

Dryads, I promise to turn your former oaken homes into floors. Not as dramatic as feeling the sun and moving in the wind, creaking against the bark and striving against the pull of gravity, but at least you will be useful and still on the same land.

(The willowy maidens seem nonplussed...) But what about the pink hued cedars, the clover shaped shaggy barked cousins nearby?

How about closets for the milled large ones and fence posts for the smaller ones?

And the smaller oaks, those too adolescent for flooring?

We can inoculate you with fungus plugs, you will house shitake or oyster mushrooms. That way we can start farming this spring. Those that are too big we will split into logs to keep our new home warm in the winter.

What about the brush that is too small for even mushrooms?

That we shall mulch.

But you have no idea how to use a chainsaw or a wood chipper.

I will learn.

The dryads flit away - perhaps mulch is an unwelcome word to tree nymphs. However to me, mulch is the crux of beginning this farm on the right foot. Every farming conference I have attended lately has been dorking about the importance of soil health.

Mulch is my first step.

Pondering, Corinna

Here is the post on Real Time Farms.

Armed with a chainsaw and a small excavator - the clearing commences.

I can imagine dryads weeping as they see the stumps.

Over the next few days the brush is piled up and more and more trees are felled.

A birds nest in an ?hickory" tree (still working on my tree identification skills).

A tangled mass of heavy wood = brush pile.

Cedar trees have the most remarkable clover patter to the rich pink (almost purple when freshly cut).

A friend has a portable mill, which makes the process relatively easy. The boards will be kiln dried before being laid on the floor.

Perhaps I can use the ends from milling for cutting boards for gifts? So many possibilities!!

Farm Beginnings

We can bolt lettuce, can we do more than that?

I envision this series might be a long lived one. I am embarking on a project that to some people on this planet might seem ridiculous (because they are already doing it and they grew up doing it), to some absurd (because they would rather not be doing it), and to some dirty (because, well, there will be dirt). We are starting a farm.

Chronological seems like the best way to start this story. I grew up in a city. Not just any city. I grew up six blocks from the Capitol (OL) Building in Washington DC. My father loved, and still loves, the ability to walk to the corner store for last minute ingredients - so do I. I started taking public transportation home from school, seven miles away, when I was nine years old: bus, metro, bus, walk. School finished by 3:15 and if I was able to time it correctly I would be home by 4:05 (Unless I took the bus all the way home to do my math homework, struggling to hold the pencil still over bouncing potholes. In that case, I would be home by 4:30.)

In other words, I am a city girl. I love cities, I love walking around cities, I love the energy of the cities and the beauty and the smells and the humanity all piled on top of each other, jostling, stretching, striving.

What the frak (thank you BattleStar Galactica) am I doing starting a farm?

The real thing might be a tad messier.

The short answer I am going to borrow from Shannon Brines, of Brines Farm in Ann Arbor. I asked him in December 2009 about his decision to start a farm and my memory tells me his answer was along the line of “time to put my money where my mouth is.”

The long answer is this. I have always been an eater: good food, cooking, being around kitchens, fun ingredients, etc - bring it on. My grandparents had a wonderful home in Massachusetts with lots of plants, grubs, bare feet days, and summer warmth. In 2006, I started rethinking career - do I want to be in charge, do I want to sit at a desk all day, do I want to live and contribute according to what makes my heart sing and my soul flutter, do I want to feel creative and useful? Yes. Do I want to know where my food comes from? Yes.

We started off in Ann Arbor, MI with chickens and a vegetable garden. I love keeping chickens, they smell good (I am not kidding, I like to bury my nose in their warm down - they smell like life), the eggs are amazing, killing them is not too horrible, and they are fun to spy on while dust bathing. Vegetable gardens are an exercise in hope and miracles every year - a connection with the seasons and the adamah (humus) that makes up our adam-ness (human-ness). (Thank you Fred Bahnson at TEDxManhattan 2013).

One of our girls devouring the last of the raspberries.

But there never seemed to be enough room in our tidy back garden. And wouldn’t it be fun to try our hand at goats, or pigs, or growing nut trees, or an orchard?

It was also appealing to be self-sufficient and hone our useful skills, not just continue practicing my consuming skills, but to dive into the nitty gritty homo sapiens survival skills. Finally, there are the niggling doomsday reasons: what if oil goes to $200/barrel and the price of bread goes to $20, etc? When we moved back to the East Coast - this was our chance.

Step #1 - find land. I feel very privileged and lucky to have access to resources that made this a very painless process - some of our land was used for hay, some for a woodlot, and some was just overgrown with poison ivy and pin oaks.

Step #2 - live on the land.

That is where we catch up to the present day. We are in the process of navigating the living part. In order to build a house - we need to clear some trees from the overgrown area. However, I feel a bit like the Lorax - which is what I will address next time.

Giggling as a Greenhorn,

(Here is a little snippet of who I am - from a few summers ago when I was managing the Westside Farmers Market in Ann Arbor. Hopefully it will make you giggle too.)

Here is the post on the Real Time Farms blog!

Making Nut Milk

I would have loved to have been in the marketing room when they started discussing what in the world they were going to call the liquid that is discharged when soaked nuts are ground in water... Because nut juice, well, really doesn’t work. Yet, as they probably knew, nut milk is not milk. Milk is “a fluid secreted by the mammary glands of females for the nourishment of their young.”* Nut milk more closely aligns with the idea of a cider, “an unfermented drink made by crushing fruit,” because you grind the nuts and press out the liquid. Nut milk is only milky in that it is white and opaque. Though, for those of us who choose not to drink a tall glass of cow milk, nut milk (unlike cider) does fulfill many of the same functions (coffee companion, cereal splasher, etc) as milk. So we will let the nomenclature nickname stand.

almond-choc-8ozBy the time I was a teenager, we had rice milk in the house. One could get soy milk latte’s at Starbucks. In the past 15 years more and more milks have hit the market: almond, hemp, coconut, hazelnut, oat, carob, 7 grain. Eden Organic has a rice AND soymilk beverage. Dream has coconut and almond and chia, rice and quinoa, or almond and cashew and hazelnut. Do you want your milk unsweetened, vanilla, chocolate, low sodium, original? How about a single serving package certified Non-GMO? How about a french vanilla nut creamer for your coffee?

Inspired by all of the options on the market I started feeling the urge to make my own nut milk (exacerbated by a recycling container overflowing with almond milk boxes). The only caveat to this story is you need a Vitamix. But once that is in hand, all you need is your imagination and a little forethought (you need to start the night before).

PureCoco_VanHG_496x1130I have included a few official recipes below from Eagle Loft Kitchen because I am more of the eyeball type of cook.

Grab some raw nuts: brazils, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts. I haven’t tried peanuts yet, don’t know if the flavor would be too intense. I would love to make almond milk but finding raw almonds can be tricky. As of 2007 all almonds are pasteurized in the US. I have not yet been able to bring myself to order raw almonds from Spain from nuts.com, but I am sure I will eventually. 

Soak raw nuts overnight in 4 times more water than nuts. Rinse them off in the AM till the water runs clear. Add anywhere from 2 to 4 times more water than nuts to the mixer. (the less water the more the milk becomes a milkshake) Add nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, fruit, maple syrup, honey, etc according to taste. Throw the switch!

I have been pouring the milk off the top of the residue and then throwing the residue into the compost pile. You could strain the liquid if you prefer not to chew on your milk. 

And voila! Nut juice!

Happy Milking! Corinna

(Here is the post on Real Time Farms!)

Thank you Eagle Loft Kitchen for these ideas as well...

IMG_5549Almond Milk 1 cup raw almonds 4 cups water + more for soaking 2 Medjool dates, pitted 1 tsp vanilla

  1. Soak almonds in enough water to cover for 4 hours or overnight. Then drain and rinse almonds well.
  2. Measure 4 cups fresh water into the Vitamix (using the handy measurements on the side of the pitcher). Add the almonds, dates and vanilla.
  3. Secure the lid and start the Vitamix on low, increasing the speed slowly up to 10 and then flip the high power switch. Process until well blended, 1 minute or more.
  4. Strain the milk through a nut milk bag, or 2-3 layers of cheesecloth in a wire sieve (the nut milk bag is SO much easier), for 30 minutes. Squeeze excess milk out of bag (or gently press residue in sieve) then pour milk into a container with lid (I use a 1 litre/quart mason jar). Store milk in the fridge for up to 5 days. Shake well before serving.
  5. Almond residue (what is left in your nut bag or sieve) can be discarded, but I store mine for a few days in the fridge to use in recipes such as Zucchini Bread. It can also be used as a facial scrub!

IMG_5556Cashew Milk 1 cup raw cashews 4 cups water + more for soaking 1 Tbsp agave syrup pinch sea salt

  1. Soak cashews in enough water to cover for 4 hours or overnight. Then drain and rinse cashews well.
  2. Measure 4 cups fresh water into the Vitamix (using the handy measurements on the side of the pitcher). Add the cashews, agave and salt.
  3. Secure the lid and start the Vitamix on low, increasing the speed slowly up to 10 and then flip the high power switch. Process until well blended, 1 minute or more.
  4. To decrease foam, turn off high power switch and slowly turn dial lower. A funnel should form in the middle. Decrease speed until funnel almost disappears, then hold at that speed for 15 seconds. Decrease again until funnel almost disappears and hold for another 15 seconds. Slowly decrease speed to 1, then turn off.
  5. Cashew milk does not need straining. Simply pour milk into a container with lid (I use a 1 litre/quart mason jar). Store milk in the fridge for up to 5 days. Shake well before serving.

Rice Milk 1/2 cup cooked brown rice 2 cups water 1/2 Tbsp maple syrup

  1. Measure 2 cups fresh water into the Vitamix (using the handy measurements on the side of the pitcher). Add the rice and maple syrup.
  2. Secure the lid and start the Vitamix on low, increasing the speed slowly up to 10 and then flip the high power switch. Process until well blended, 1 minute or more.
  3. To decrease foam, turn off high power switch and slowly turn dial lower. A funnel should form in the middle. Decrease speed until funnel almost disappears, then hold at that speed for 15 seconds. Decrease again until funnel almost disappears and hold for another 15 seconds. Slowly decrease speed to 1, then turn off.
  4. Rice milk does not need straining. Simply pour milk into a container with lid (I use a 500mL/1 pint mason jar). Store milk in the fridge for up to 4 days. Shake well before serving.

* Never too early to read the words mammary glands.

Here is the post on the Real Time Farms blog!

Real Time Farms and Food 52 partner up!

This is what happened last week with Real Time Farms. BIG freaking news. Since this came out on the 6th, the press has been really exciting...check out Forbes and Xconomy Here is the Real Time Farms blog post...

We are happy to announce that our team is joining Food52 to work towards a shared vision of community building and sustainable eating. Having recently won the James Beard Award for Publication of the Year, Food52 is a pioneer among cooking websites, inspiring the everyday person to get in the kitchen. We've long admired what Amanda, Merrill and the Food52 team have built, and are excited to work with them to inspire people to cook, and to celebrate the ingredients they choose and where they come from.

As Food52 writes in their manifesto: "We think cooking is really important” especially now. Over the past decade, many studies and books have shown that children from families who eat together do better in school, that eating "whole" foods is healthier, that eating sustainably will save the environment. But no one has pointed out that the only way to achieve all this in a comprehensive, lasting way is for people to cook."

If we do say so ourselves, we're pretty geeked that the first crowd-sourced curated cooking site is partnering with the first ever crowd-sourced food guide.

In the past two years the Real Time Farms community has gathered information about thousands of farms and farmers markets, pulling in details about about goods and growing practices, as well as tens of thousands of photos. This is in no small part thanks to our more than four dozen Food Warrior Interns who have documented local food communities all across the US. We've been looking for just the right opportunity to make our data relevant and helpful to people on a daily basis. We will be working to make this information accessible to the 750,000 (and growing) monthly unique visitors at Food52.com in the context of cooking at home. This is an awesome opportunity to have a bigger impact than we ever could on our own.

What does this mean for RealTimeFarms.com?

Real Time Farms will continue to operate normally, serving as a repository to organize information about farms, food artisans and farmers markets. Our focus will shift towards making our website as useful as possible to organizations and individuals who invest in keeping information about farms up to date (that means data! data! data!). We will continue to communicate openly as we figure out longer-term plans with the Food52 team.

What about restaurants on Real Time Farms?

Over the past year and a half, we've worked hard to help eateries show their patrons exactly where each ingredient is coming from with innovative farm-linked menus. We've had a blast working with amazing chefs from across the country and have been blown away by their support and enthusiasm. However, we have not reached the critical mass necessary to make it as useful to consumers as we would have liked . As such, we are shifting our development resources and energies towards our partnership with Food52. Given this shift, we are no longer offering our restaurant tools to new customers.

Check out Food52's announcement for more information.

Real Time Farms powers the FixAntibiotics Food Finder (and my favorite sentence is quoted in Food Safety News!)

Yesterday, Consumer Reports released a report, "Meat on Drugs: The overuse of antibiotics in food animals and what supermarkets and consumers can do to stop it." This report is propelling a campaign (Meat on Drugs) with many supporters (FixFood, Consumers Union, Center for Food Safety, Natural Resources Defense Council, etc) and a clarion call to action. Action supported and helped by the FixAntibiotics Food Finder powered by Real Time Farms! So you agree with the 86% of consumers who want to purchase meat raised without antibiotics - they (and you) understand the superbug problem and want to have the choice to do something about it.

Well, great - where do you find meat raised without antibiotics to buy?

Via the FixAntibiotics Food Finder!  The food finder allows you to easily zoom to retail locations, farmers markets, farms, and restaurants sourcing antibiotic free meat. You can easily zoom, you can easily find the location, and you can easily purchase!

(of course, and always, if you know of a farm not in the database that provides antibiotic free meat - add it to the guide!)

This campaign, as with so many things, comes down to people voting with their wallets because government is seen as moving too slowly.  As Jean Holloran, Director of Food Policies at Consumers Union, shared with Grist -  "After three decades, you could say we're a little frustrated with the rate of change at FDA. It's discouraging to see that the industry lobbies have prevented the agency from acting." According to the article, Halloran is lambasting both the meat industry and the pharmaceutical industry. In 1995, sales of so-called "animal health products" to agricultural operations were already worth a total of $3.3 billion a year by 1995. (that is a lot of sales)

Check out this great video about the campaign done by FixFood's Robby Kenner (and yes, narrated by Bill Paxton)...

Thank you Food Safety News for grabbing my favorite sentence out of this piece for your story! (I was really pleased with that sentence, and those of you who read my stuff regularly know I speak often of "voting with one's wallet". Lalalalala!)