Picture Sundays: Trout Smells Kraut

Somehow, in a post about a handy fermenter from the Farmer’s Kitchen, I failed to put up this shamelessly cute picture of our cat, Trout, interfering with the photo session.

If you’d like more proof that the internet is some kind of million typing monkey/non-linear/collective unconsciousness generation machine, try typing “cat and sauerkraut” into Google. You get a fluffy and deaf white cat who loves sauerkraut. We can now consider that long experiment in human civilization complete.

Saturday Linkages: Really Old Beer, Interior Design Tips From the Mafia, Trash in LA, Halloumi Kabobs and More

Williams-Sonoma’s $60 “predator proofing” kit. Yes, that’s hardware cloth and nails. Via Northwest Edible Life.

Beer From 1840s Shipwreck May Be Recreated By Scientists. http://huff.to/JFfiAl

Huge, dumb booze producer Diageo orders industry association to give them the prize that had been awarded to competitor:http://boingboing.net/2012/05/10/huge-dumb-scottish-bar-chain.html

Italian mafia interior tastes exposed – in pictures http://gu.com/p/37d2t/tw

Behind the scenes of a city: Trash in L.A.: http://boingboing.net/2012/05/08/behind-the-scenes-of-a-city-t.html

Train horn attached to bicycle: http://boingboing.net/2012/05/08/train-horn-attached-to-bicycle.html

Vegetarian Recipe: Halloumi Kabobs – Good Food http://blogs.kcrw.com/goodfood/2012/05/vegetarian-recipe-halloumi-kabobs/

A Bamboo Mat Shed With Palm Thatch Roof: http://altbuildblog.blogspot.com/2012/04/bamboo-mat-shed-with-palm-thatch-roof.html

Don’t Buy These 5 Williams-Sonoma Agrarian Products http://www.nwedible.com/2012/04/dont-buy-these-5-william-sonoma-agrarian-products.html

Common Appliances, Uncommon Uses http://www.chow.com/food-news/54485/common-appliances-uncommon-uses/

Follow the Root Simple twitter feed for more linkages.

Reseeding Vegetables for the Warm Season

So what edible/useful plants pop up in lead contaminated soil along a hot, dry alternately sun-baked and deep-shaded south side of a house in Southern California? After dumping a load of compost along our side yard, mother nature is doing her own food forestry experiment. This month the following things popped up out of that load of compost:

  1. stinging nettle
  2. cardoon
  3. tomatoes
  4. nasturtium
  5. fennel
  6. sunflowers

Elsewhere in the yard, New Zealand spinach has popped up on its own. I doubt the stinging nettle or nasturtium will hang on for long (it’s out of season for those plants here).  But I’m willing to bet that the tomatoes, New Zealand spinach, fennel and cardoon will take. Because of the lead, the only thing I would eat of that bunch are the tomatoes (fruit usually does not take up heavy metals). Still, I think bio-activity in the soil in the form of microorganisms and plants will, over a very long period, help remediate that contamination.

More and more, I’m drawn to vegetables that easily re-seed themselves and grow without any fuss. And knowing when to plant things can be tricky, so watching nature’s own timing can provide important clues. I’ve taken to moving some of these self-seeded plants to our raised beds. And I’ve pledged to take better notes (this blog post, for instance) to keep a record of what comes up on its own and when.

So tell us where you are and what’s sprouting on it’s own this spring in your garden?

Using Kosher Salt for Making Pickles

Naive me, I purchased a box of Morton’s kosher salt for a pickling project. I thought that kosher salt lacks the anti-caking agents that cause cloudy and sediment filled jars of pickles. No blue ribbon for me at the county fair:

Morton salt has anti-caking agents. But I can follow them on Facebook (why I would want to do that would be the topic of another post). Diamond Salt, on the other hand does not have anti-caking agents:

So, when pickling, be careful selecting your kosher salt–some contain anti-caking agents, others do not.

Another precaution when using kosher salt in food preservation projects comes from the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension’s guide to Homemade Pickles and Relishes (pdf):

Kosher pure flaked salt requires special care if used for pickling. Flaked salt weighs less per volume than canning and pickling salt, so you need about 50 percent more—11⁄2 cups of flaked salt equals about 1 cup of canning and pickling salt. If you use kosher salt for fermented pickles, you must weigh out the proper amount.Weigh out 73⁄4 ounces (220 grams) of flaked salt, and you will have the equivalent of 1 cup of canning and pickling salt.

This same publication also notes how easy it is to find pickling salt and how hard it is to find kosher salt. It’s just the opposite here in Los Angeles.

So what kind of salt do you use for pickling and fermenting? What’s the easiest to find where you live?

See the University of Wisconsin’s other tested food preservation recipes here.

How to Prep Fabric for Dyeing: Scouring

Check out the water after boiling my supposedly clean sheet!

As usual, I’m taking my shibori challenge right to the deadline. One important preparatory step to dyeing is a cleansing process called “scouring.” I’d never heard of this before now, which may be why all my casual attempts at dyeing thus far have not turned out so great. I spent my weekend scouring so I can move on to dyeing. And then on to sewing! Yikes! I’m really behind.

Scouring is deep cleaning of fabric or fiber. Scouring helps assure even color and good penetration of the dye. Cotton in particular needs scouring, even if it is brand new from the fabric shop, because apparently it is full of hidden waxes and oils. In my case, I’ll be using an old top sheet for my experiments, so it certainly needs lots of help.

Cotton and wool are scoured differently. I’ve never scoured wool, so am not going to cover it here. I understand it is also a washing process, but done with cool-ish water, so as not to felt the wool, and gentle soap. Linen also needs scouring, but I know even less about that.

Continue reading…

Erik Speaking at Maker Faire

I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be speaking at the Bay Area Maker Faire on Saturday May 19 at 6:30 pm on the Maker Square Stage (located in the Homegrown Village). The talk I’m giving will be about the appropriate tech projects we’ve been up to around the Root Simple compound–our new chicken run, greywater, solar cooking and Mediterranean edible gardening. I’d love to hang out, after the talk, with any of you who plan on attending. For more information about Maker Faire go to http://makerfaire.com/.

Disconnect to Reconnect: Ditching the “Flushie” for a Composting Toilet

Image from the Wikimedia Commons

We’re lucky to have another guest post by Nancy Klehm (see a nice interview with her on foraging here). Nancy visits us at the Root Simple compound at least once a year. What follows is an account of a plumbing misadventure she had on her last visit. 

To give you some context, ever since we’ve remodeled our bathroom and switched to a low-flow toilet we’ve had periodic backups. We think there is a low spot just within reach of our turlet snake. The toilet flushes OK most of the time, but at least once a week I’ve got to deploy that damn snake.

Here’s Nancy:

I don’t use a flushie often, I made the decision to ‘go dry’ years ago, adopting the bucket toilet + sawdust system as it pairs nicely with my composting obsession and food growing habit.

I stayed at Erik and Kelly’s back in February. Their low flush toilet and antique piping can’t seem to handle even the most modest bodily donation. Once a flushing attempt proves unsuccessful, and immediately following the ‘oh no…’ guilty grimace, a light-hearted blame game plays out and then according to homestead rules, Erik snakes the toilet. The closet augur is kept on the front porch (to greet visitors?). Erik augers for a few minutes, flushes successfully, marches the tool back outside to air out and we settle back into our routines relieved that our burdens are flowing into the larger mystery of pipes and their soupy contents to the municipal waste treatment plant miles away.

But with Erik and Kelly out of town on one of the weekends during my stay, the daily chores of feeding the kittens, letting out the single hen to roam the yard and snaking, if so needed, fell on me. And yes, the toilet clogged and no, I did not assume the blame. I am regular enough (2-3x/day) as are Erik and Kelly for the record [editor’s note: the editors demur from either acknowledging or disavowing the hypothetical frequency of their natural propensities.] to avoid creating such monsters and yet, the flushie needs snaking every day soon after the post-caffeine effect.

Continue reading…

Loquat Leather Recipe

Our neighborhood is full of loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) trees. For years I’ve been trying to figure out a way to use them. Loquats, a warm climate relative of the apple tree, produce tons of fruit all at once that do not keep well fresh. Thus the need to preserve the fruit. Unfortunately, they are also a chore to process–small large seeds and skins that are difficult to peel. They also vary widely in quality, since many in the neighborhood are probably seeds planted by birds and squirrels rather than grafted specimens.

But at last, I’ve found a use for them that’s repetitively low-labor and yields a tasty result: loquat leather. Here’s the recipe I came up with:

2 cups loquats (no need to peel)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons agave syrup
1 teaspoon triple sec

Remove seeds. Place loquats in a blender with the lemon juice, agave syrup and triple sec. Dehydrate at 135º until, as the Colorado Extension Service puts it, “translucent and slightly tacky to the touch, but easily peeled from the pan.”

Tips: Chef Ernie Miller suggested using a blender is rather than a food processor for this recipe. Also, try to spread the puree thicker towards the edges of the dehydrator sheet and you’ll get a more uniform result. Finally, the triple sec is optional, but some sort of flavor addition gives your fruit leather a more “adult” taste.

Fellow Master Food Preserver trainee Emily Ho is working on a loquat soda syrup and has also made some loquat jelly.

Saturday Linkages: Off-Grid Living, Urban Velo, Meat Glue, Home Depot and Dandelions

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Amazing photos of people living off-the-grid in the United States: http://boingboing.net/2012/05/03/photos-of-people-living-off-th.html

This week in TSA awfulness: a recap of recent American airport atrocities: http://boingboing.net/2012/05/02/this-week-in-tsa-awfulness-a.html

New issue of Urban Velo: http://www.urbanvelo.org/issue31/index.html

Meat Glue (not to be confused with pink slime): http://boingboing.net/2012/05/01/meat-glue.html

Barf Blog, a great blog about foodborne illness: http://barfblog.foodsafety.ksu.edu/barfblog

What kind of advice are Home Depot’s “Certified Nursery Consultants” giving? http://bit.ly/Inbqod

On Dandelions: http://ow.ly/1LitSC

These, and more linkages, are from the Root Simple twitter feed.