You can eat the turnips!

This morning we made our first family trip of the Season to the Farmers Market. We loaded up on fresh greens, onions, lavendar, baby bok choy, fresh made tortilla chips and a sweet Japanese turnip (forgot the name, started with an h)! When I put the turnips in the Chariot with Baby Green Me I jokingly told him that he could eat the turnips. A few minutes later when I opened the top to get out our water bottle I discovered this:

 

 

Guess he likes turnips! Yay!

A spring trip to the Farmers Market has to been one of the best activities in the book. The air and was warm with the hint of a breeze, the sky clear, the trees green. The weather was in fact perfect for our walk and it was immensely satisfying to get in a little exercise. I was also pleased as punch to use the cotton produce bags that Mr. Green Me had given me at Christmas time. Not only did we walk to the market and buy fresh produce, but we also did not consume any unnecessary plastic bags! Woohoo!

Happy Spring and Mothers Day to all the moms!

Satisfaction: Gardens, Humingbirds, and Strawberries

We bought our house in late May (3 years ago) when the foliage and flowers were at their best. We were thrilled in our dry Colorado climate that the back yard had been xeriscaped and would thus require little or no water or so we thought! Sadly, the former owners had not done their research and many of the plants required constant water or they died! They had also over landscaped and so there were clusters of trees and strange combinations of plants that looked odd in the off season.

To start we practiced elimination clearing out some unnecessary and or water hungry plants. Then we slowly started replanting with species better suited to our climate, such as yucca, pampass grass and succulents. We also chose to keep the two apple trees, which only require occasional watering, and we added a strawberry garden.

Most recently we switched out our dangerous and ugly metal edging that didnt really provide a barrier between bark and rocks and replaced it with a cedar edging that matches our fence and which according to the package was from sustainably harvested cedar and made in the USA. (We passed the old edging along via Freecycle to be used again.) And, we are very pleased with the results! I will have to water the strawberries and my small two vegetable plots (tomatoes, an eggplant, brussel sprouts, peas, a pepper, carrots, butternut squash and pie pumpkins), but everything else should be self sufficient during the summer months!

As part of our yard project I fixed up a humming bird feeder that Id bought on a whim a few years back. The flowers had faded and were no longer pink, so I took my single bottle of water based non-toxic nail polish and painted the petals the color of Desire otherwise known as a pinkish red. I then made some humming bird nectar with water and sugar (1/3 cup sugar, 2 cups boiled water) and a splash of India Tree natural food coloring. I’ve read that humming birds don’t really care if the nectar is red, but it looks so much prettier to ME. And, it is my yard after all! This time I placed the feeder in the middle of my strawberry bed and away from the window where my cat likes to drool and dream about eating birds.

I am also preparing for a bumper crop of strawberries as you can see from the below picture. Nearly every plant is covered in blooms and many are already growing fruit! This will be the third year for my patch and looks to be the best yet! Hopefully, we will have plenty to eat and bake into strawberry rhubarb pie (my rhubarb not pictured, is also huge) and some left over to make into jam!

Now, the only thing that is missing from our lovely yard is a couple of chickens

Longmont are you Chicken?

For the average green blog I have probably written extensively about my love of goats (and strawberries). Did you know I also love chickens? As a kid we had chickens, I helped my Dad feed them, broke the ice on their water in the Winter and I helped to eat their eggs for breakfast. All and all I never thought much about having chickens. As the years grew on our chickens grew old and eventually my Dad decided to cut back on his animal husbandry, and since their last two cats have passed on, my parents now own ZERO animals (for the first time in over 30 years).

But I digress. I love chickens. Or more specifically I love the yellow, golden, creamy yolks that are found inside eggs harvested fresh from hand raised chickens. So does my 16 month old son. When I scramble up a fresh egg from the chickens at Ollin Farms, my son gobbles up ever last bite. When I serve him up a pale grocery store egg even a cage free omega filled Nest Fresh egg he gets a little peckish. He eats a few bites and leaves the rest.

The average omnivore might think that I am imagining things, but I happen to be a taste connoisseur. I can copy recipes pretty good simply by tasting them (no recipe in hand). When I taste wine (or chocolate or coffee) I can honestly taste the spice, the bloom, the black cherry, the grapefruit. I KNEW when Cline Vineyards sold out and changed the grapes going into their Red Truck table wine, but it wasnt until over a year later that I finally got confirmation that the Red Truck of 5 years ago is not the same Red Truck vinted today. In other words, I am absolutely certain, that fresh farm eggs TASTE BETTER than factory farmed eggs, even Certified Humane, but still factory farmed eggs.

However, fresh farm (urban or country) eggs not only taste better, they are better for you. In fact any animal product that comes from an animal that eats a natural diet, getting in some greens (usually grass), some bugs or other foods from nature, has a different balance of fats and proteins than the same animal products factory farmed cousins. Wild venison, grass fed beef, and eggs from the little farm down the road are characterized by an increase in Omega 3 fats, a decrease in Saturated fats, and an increase in lean protein. This is because similar to the obese American, modern livestock were not meant to live on corn and soy. Corn and soy may fill you up and out, but growth in itself is not always good. Especially growth that involves excess fat.

But again, I digress, so back to chickens. I love farm chickens (urban or country) for their quirky personality, the beauty of their plumage and their ability to bond with small children. In fact, 4-H recommends that kids who want to get involved in livestock, but who have little experience raise poultry. We are what we eat (literally) and yet our culture is frighteningly disconnected from our food. Many today cant cook from scratch or think that cooking from scratch means opening a boxed mix and adding eggs and oil. Others dont even bother to use their kitchen allowing strangers to feed them 3 square (or not so square) meals per day.

And thus, perhaps I should not be in total shock that my city (Longmont, CO) is coming upon strong resistance when it comes to approving an ordinance to allow urban chickens. And yet, surrounding cities, which are arguably MORE urban than Longmont (Boulder, Denver & Fort Collins) already allow urban chickens. As does the great city of New York (seriously), as well as, other hip towns like Portland and Seattle.

For some reason, a good number of probably nice folks in Longmont, think that the approval of the urban hen will send Longmont to the dogs. Others are afraid that chickens will attract predators like fox and coyotes, which already happen to live in good numbers in our city (I see a fox and coyote on a regular basis in Longmont). Others think chickens smell (they dont) or that they are noisy (roosters are, but not chickens). Whats more they are concerned about the mess.

Cooped chickens dont poop in their neighbors yard and they dont bark at raccoons after midnight; however, they do provide those yummy, golden yolks that my family genuinely appreciates. Now given all this, I am not sure that I personally am prepared to start my own little brood of laying hens, but I do think that I should have the legal right to do so. If the ordinance is not approved, I will mark it down as another strike in my book against Longmont. (Badly maintained bike paths and sidewalks, lack of safe bike routes for families, lack of good public transportation, and no alcohol at city sponsored events are other strikes in my book.) In other words, when it comes time for my son to start Kindergarten in a few years and we come up on our familys deadline to reassess whether we stay or movethe ability to raise chickens will weigh in more heavily than you might assume.

If I can have chickens in Lafayette, Boulder, Niwot, Erie, Denver, Loveland or Fort Collins why should I not be able to keep them in Longmont? And if most of these cities also have better public transportation, bikeways and pedestrian ways, then we will likely move. Honestly, Longmont, by not supporting this ordinance, you are being a stick in the mud!

What can we do?

Well, the Crunchy Domestic Goddess has started a Chicken Crusade and I am happily going a long for the ride. In a few days we should have a site up (Longmont Urban Hens) and we are working to organize anyone and everyone who supports urban hens in Longmont to show up at the City Council meeting in December. In addition, if you live in Longmont and support urban hens, please dont delay in writing our city council members and tell them why they need to approve the urban hen ordinance. You can find Longmont City Council contact info (includin email addresses) behind this link. In general we are looking to be as POSITIVE about chickens as possible. We also want to educate folks about the realities of raising chickens (the good and the bad), while acknowledging that urban hens are as much pets as they are providers of yummy eggs.

My Asparagus Adventure

This morning I woke up to low clouds and high humidity. If I hadn’t known better I might have thought I was on the Oregon coast and not the Colorado plains. After a nice walk around the neighborhood I got in the car and headed east to pick asparagus at Monroe Farms our CSA. As I drove east the clouds began to lift and the wind picked up. By the time I reached Monroe (about 40 miles and 45 minutes away) it was partly cloudy with a gentle wind blowing. In about 45 minutes time I picked enough asparagus to complete a row and fill my yellow bucket to the brim. Indeed, I think I may have picked a peck of asparagus.

By now it was fairly windy and dusty, so I didn’t dawdle around visiting with the chickens or even a goat! Instead, I packed up my peck of asparagus and headed homeward. As I was driving west towards the mountains the sky began to darken and the wind continued to grow stronger, while dust from plowed fields filled the air. Soon the horizon took on a grayish green sort of look. To the southwest (the direction I was headed) there were some wispy clouds fingering towards the earth. Goodness I thought to myself It looks just like they say it does before a tornado and I blissfully drove on. Id checked the weather before I left and I was listening to the radio and there was no mention of bad weather in the air.

Not five minutes later I reached an intersection with a stop sign. The wind had really picked up and suddenly the dust was so thick I couldn’t see. At first I wasn’t worried, because I was already stopped. The wind then started to smack the car and I REALLY couldn’t see anything beyond my windshield the worst black out that I have ever experienced. A few huge rain drops fell and then all at once it was clear, the dust settling, blue sky and sunshine peeking out. As the blood pulsed through my veins, and my heart thumped, I made my left turn onto HWY 85 in Gilcrest and headed down the road. I then started to notice chunks of metal, road signs and various other detriment scattered in the roadway and neighboring fields. Traffic came to a stop and upon surveying the land to the left and the right of the car I identified large trees missing limbs, power poles without power lines, a barn missing a roof and a horse trotting down the road followed by a group of men.

I pulled off into a gas station (where there was no power) and asked the perhaps silly question was that a tornado? Indeed, it was. Holy cow. All I signed up for was some asparagus! Thank God I was okay and my son was home safe. My heart goes out to the truckers just up the road who’s semi’s were rolled, and the farmers and families who lost barns, parts of their homes, fences and who knows what else.

For more on the tornadoes that touched down in Gilcrest (my tornado), Miliken and Windsor, Colorado around noon today follow this link. (Update: video of the tornado.) I apologize that I don’t have more pictures to share, but alas I didn’t take my camera. And, even if I had, I am not a photo journalist.

My Asparagus adventure will continue over the next few days, as I follow up with canning, pickling, blanching and or freezing. But for right now, I think Ill make a cup of green tea and thank the stars that I made it home in one piece!

Update: The worst news from this Tornado episode is that it has supposedly devastated the Windsor Dairy, which I believe to be the dairy that provides milk to Organic Valley in our area!

Perfectly Natural: Green Lawn Care

Spring is here and now is the time to start thinking about how to green your lawn care. The best way to keep your yard green does not involve adding synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, nor does it include a gas mower. In fact, perfectly natural lawn care can and will result in a perfectly green lawn. We’ve done this successfully for two years and in the front of our house, we sport one of the greener lawns in the neighborhood. Now there is no arguing that the most environmentally friendly lawn, is not a lawn at all (see our backyard to the left), but for various reasons (HOA rules, personal taste, etc.) many homeowners have grass lawns. So, if you have a lawn, but want to green it up this is the article for you!

If you love me, give me strawberries:

I’ve had a long standing love affair with strawberries. As a small child I once ate an entire mixing bowl full of strawberries that my mom had prepared for a cake. I later broke out in hives, but like all obsessive lovers, a little bump in the road didn’t stop me from coming back for more. For years the only flavor of ice cream I ate was “strawberry” and my favorite person in the world was my grandmother, who made a tantalizing batch of strawberry jam every summer.

My grandmother will be 89 this summer and she retired from the strawberry jam business a few years back. Since that time I have been left sampling every jam (organic) that I can find. There are an amazing number of organic and biologique jams to be found, but unfortunately most of them hail from far far away, and not one compares in flavor to my grandmother’s jam.

The only solution that I have come up with is to go into the jam business myself. And so, this Valentines Day, instead of flowers, my husband will be giving me 20 Organic Strawberry Plants, to be delivered from Seeds of Change after April 1st. I will add these to the 20 plants I started last summer and hopefully, sometime towards mid June, I will be in strawberry heaven.

You may be wondering why I am going to the effort of raising my own strawberries, when even organic berries can now be bought year round at the grocery store? Unless the birds get them first, homegrown berries are simply sweeter and taste better. Grocery store berries are not local, being trucked in primarily from California, but also coming in from Mexico, Central and South America. And, even organic grocery store berries tend to be bland and watery. According to the Western Farm Press, due to a favorable California climate, the US is actually the largest exporter of strawberries to the world market. So, for now, at least you don’t have to worry about your strawberries being imported from China.

Regardless of where they come from, I eat only organic strawberries and recommend the same to you. Why organic? Multiple studies have shown that organic strawberries have higher levels of beneficial antioxidants than conventionally grown berries. Recent studies in fact show that antioxidants are higher in organic crops, because they are part of the plants’ natural defense system. When pesticides are used to keep away bugs, the plants no longer need to defend themselves and the production of healthy antioxidants goes down.

So, conventional strawberry crops are pesticide intensive and strawberries are more likely than many fruits to absorb and maintain pesticide residue after application. From my point of view, if the consumption of conventional strawberries means that I get an over sized, but bland piece of fruit, which is tainted by pesticides, but without the benefit of healthy antioxidants. Why bother? My strawberries will of course be organic, and if you do buy strawberries, make sure to get the organic variety.