How to Stake Tomatoes

Our tomato staking method around the Homegrown Evolution compound is simple and lazy. We plant our tomatoes and then surround them with rolled up concrete reinforcing wire. Normally used to reinforce concrete slabs, reinforcing wire comes in 3 1/2′ by 7′ sections. We use a circular saw with a metal blade on it to cut off the bottom rung, so as to leave spiky wires with which to stick the reinforcing wire tubes into the ground, but this is not absolutely necessary.

Once in place that’s it. According to So Cal gardening guru Pat Welsh, tomatoes surrounded by a reinforcing wire staking system need not be pruned nor will they need any additional staking.

Over time the reinforcing wire rusts lending the garden a certain deconstructed vibe.

Dog Cheese

As Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin put it, “A meal without cheese is like a beautiful woman who lacks an eye” and we’d add that a cheese without life, without flavor, without character like so much of the tasteless plastic wrapped crap to be found in our nation’s supermarkets simply isn’t worthy of the table.

As urban homesteaders we’re particularly interested in finding sources of food in our dense concrete jungles, and we are not alone. The movement is full of solutions to small scale animal husbandry: from pigmy goats, to pot-bellied pigs, city dwellers are trying to do that farm thing in the city–but sometimes with limited success.

So we were thrilled to find out that one of the best solutions for the urban livestock problem might be just underfoot. Two weeks ago we hooked up with some true revolutionaries out in the San Porn-ando Valley who are breeding dogs specifically for their lactation abilities. For obvious reasons they wish to remain anonymous just now. They have three bitches currently lactating.

We went to pay them a visit, and after a few beers we gathered up the courage to milk the bitches. This ain’t Bessy the Moo Cow we’re talking about here–but no one ever said living in the city was easy. We came home with a bucket full of dog milk.

We’ve already proved that a decent Neufchâtel can be produced in a home kitchen with store bought cow’s milk and bottle of rennet (which curdles the milk). Improvising on the same recipe we managed to turn that gallon or so of dog milk into a soft farmhouse-type round of what we believe to be a first . . . dog cheese.

The taste? It is full bodied, and a little musky at first whiff, but salting the cheese really brings out a nice, distinct Frito odor which makes it a natural pairing with beer and three bean dip. Kids like it too.

L’hamd markad – Preserved Salted Lemons

One of the big problems with citrus trees is that you get a whole lot of fruit all at one time. There are two ways to deal with this–share the harvest and/or preserve it. Homegrown Revolution has done both this week by mooching some lemons off of a friend’s tree and preserving them by making one of the essential ingredients of Moroccan food, L’hamd markad or preserved salted lemons. L’hamd markad is easy to make. Here’s a recipe from Cooking at the Kasbah by Kitty Morse:

12 or more unblemished organically grown Meyer or other lemons, scrubbed
Sea salt
fresh lemon juice as needed

Pat lemons dry. Cut a thin dime-sized piece from both ends of each lemon. Set each lemon on end and make a vertical cut three quarters of the way through, so halves remain attached at the base – do not cut all the way through. Turn lemon upside down and make a similar cut through at a 90 degree angle to the first. Fill each cut with as much salt as it will hold. Place lemons carefully in a sterilized wide-mouth glass quart jar. Compress lemons while adding them until no space is left and lemon juice rises to the top. Lemons must be covered with juice at all times, so add lemon juice if necessary. Seal and set aside in dark place.

Keep for 4 to 6 weeks before using. To use, discard seeds, and rinse lightly if necessary. Once opened, store in refrigerator where they will keep up to 6 months.

In the photo you will see that we added some spices to our lemons. This is an optional thing. A traditonal spice blend would be something like 3 peppercorns, 3 cloves and one cinnamon stick.

Also, we found it impossible to follow the command in the recipe to cut the lemons this way and that, cleverly leaving them whole and stuffing them with salt. That just didn’t work because our lemons were too big to fit in the mouth of the jar while whole. You see, we’re using honkin’ big ghetto lemons, not nice little Meyers. So we cut them up into quarters and just made sure they were well coated in salt.

You can use your L’hamd markad in a variety of dishes, from salads to meat stews. You use them in a relish sort of way, as a salty-sour accent. We want to try chopping them fine, blending them with other tasty things, like garlic, and sprinkling them on everything from greens to pizza.

There’s also an expensive condiment you can recreate at home by blending together 2 preserved lemons lemons, 2 tablespoons dijon mustard, 1/4 cup honey, 1 garlic clove, salt and pepper. Blend in some olive oil until it gets the consistency of mayonnaise.

Moroccan cuisine makes a lot of sense in Los Angeles as the two places have similar climates and all the stuff that grows in Morocco also grows in Southern California–olives, tomatoes, fava beans, dates, and mint. The only thing we’re missing are the sheep . . .

The 10 Day $25 Survival Pack

This month’s issue of Backwoods Home Magazine, what Homegrown Revolution reads when we’re in a foul Unabomber type mood, has a handy article inspired by this winter’s Kim family tragedy. As you may recall the Kim family got lost on a seldom travelled road in Oregon and spent 10 days without supplies before James Kim finally made a fatal attempt to hike out through the cold. Playing armchair quarterback, the gun-toting off-griders at Backwoods Home have come up with an inexpensive survival pack and the best thing is the article is free and online!

Backwoods Home’s $25 survival pack makes extensive use of the sort of highly prepared ready-to-eat crap food easily found in America’s bloated supermarkets. Normally we wouldn’t touch this stuff, what the French call malbouffe, but its long shelf life and ease of preparation make certain items, such as Knorr chicken and pasta dinner and Maruchan ramen noodle soup ideal foods for emergency kits. These convenience foods are also great for backpacking as they are much cheaper and often tastier than freeze dried camping foods. And Homegrown Revolution can’t resist the irony here, that if and when the “shit comes down” we’ll be using the very products that let to our own destruction.

Of course, the Backwoods Home survival pack is designed for the typical SUV drivin’ American so you’ll have to pimp it out with some lighter weight items to make your “escape from LA” on a bike (trust us, a delightful form of transport in gridlocked traffic). For some lighter options check out the new topics list you’ll see on the right, particularly the preparedness section.

The revolution will be fermented . . .


Homegrown Revolution’s month of fermentation continues with the following bubbling containers–from left to right:

Rye Sourdough Starter
More info in a future post, but rye flour is much more active than a starter made with white flour!

White Flour Starter
We’ve already ranted about this stuff here and here. So far, much success.

Crème Fraîche
Special thanks to Susan of Northeast LA’s “culture club” for giving us some Swedish fil mjolk culture. We gave it some cream to feed on to produce a delicious batch of crème fraîche, though you can also make crème fraîche with buttermilk .

Filmjölk
Once again, more filmjölk given some milk to feed on thus producing more . . . filmjölk. More info here.

Lacto-fermented Daikon Radish
We’ll report the results. In the meantime read all about lacto-fermentation from an excerpt from the book Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.

Post Petroleum Lecture – a reminder

Homegrown Revolution, drunk from our many fermentation experiments, goofed and gave you all a bad link to reserve your spot in the upcoming lecture by Albert Bates, author of a brand new book The Post Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook. To reserve your spot go to www.sustainablehabitats.org

Bates will be speaking at the Audubon Center at Debs Park on Saturday March 24th as part of the 2007 Sustainable Habitats Lecture Series.

Here’s the announcement again:

Albert Bates is a permaculture and appropriate technology instructor at the Eco village Training Center at The Farm community in Summertown, Tennessee, inventor of solar cars, pedal flour sifters and cylindrical tofu presses, and author of eleven books, including Shutdown: Nuclear Power on Trial (1979) and Climate in Crisis: The Greenhouse Effect and What We Can Do (1990). His Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook: Recipes for Changing Times (New Society 2006) envisions the world as it will be transformed by peak oil and climate change, and offers a prescription for re-inhabitation. As one of the founders of the Eco village Network of the Americas (1994) and the Global Eco village Network (1995), Albert used his lifetime of eco-community living skills to create an incendiary meme, sparked by dedicated individuals and fueled by the pressing necessity of changing the way in which human communities relate to nature.

Place: Audubon Center at Debs Park
4700 Griffin Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90031

Time:10:00 AM
Cost:$10 on-line $15 at the door
Instructions for payment: RSVP and pay on-line using PayPal www.sustainablehabitats.org

Should you not be able to make it, Bates will be appearing the next day at the Los Angeles Eco-Village on Sunday March 25th at 8 pm. There is a suggested donation of $10 for the lecture. The Los Angeles Eco-Village is located at:

117 Bimini Place
Los Angeles, CA 90004.

For those of you who can’t make either lecture Homegrown Revolution always enjoys the peak oil harangues from the very cranky James Howard Kunstler.

Irish Soda Bread

In honor of St. Patrick’s day we give you this still from the simultaneously captivating and unwatchable film Leprechaun in the Hood (special thanks to Dough on the Go! for insisting that we watch until the very end when the Leprechaun raps) and from our expanding comments section a recipe for Irish soda bread:

This is the other half of Homegrown Revolution here, and I have to say I am not thrilled with the recipe my comrade in arms decided to post as representative of the best of quick breads. For years I’ve been making a much better whole wheat-ish quick bread (which he seems to have forgotten) and this is how it goes:

Irish Brown Soda Bread

1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
1 3/4 c. whole wheat flower
3 T. toasted wheat bran
3 T. toasted wheat germ
2 T. old fashioned oats
(note: change up or skip these nuggety bits as necessary–they just add texture)
2 T packed brown sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 T. chilled unsalted butter cut into pieces
2 cups or so of buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425
Butter a 9 inch loaf pan

Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl and mix. Add the butter and rub it into the flour. Stir in the buttermilk until a soft dough forms and you can scrape up all the dry bits. Don’t overwork. It is fairly wet dough. Put it in the loaf pan and bake about 40 minutes — do the toothpick test in the center to make sure. Turn it out of its pan, and let it cool on a rack.

This is a nutty, wheaty, slightly sweet bread. The original recipe came from an ancient Bon Appétit.


A garden that looks like a meth amphetamine lab

This year around the Homegrown Revolution compound we’ve finally thrown off the tyranny of the beautiful. There’s simply too much of what we call “garden porn” out there. Coffee table garden books, Martha Stewart and 24 hours of bullshit home improvement shows set up expectations that drive us all to useless spending at nurseries and home improvement stores all in pursuit of unattainable ideals, at least unattainable for anyone not employing slave labor. Forget about creating a mini Versailles–it’s time to get down to business and grow stuff you can eat. Our new criteria for success in gardens is this–a garden must simultaneously provide food for our table and habitat for beneficial wildlife, and it must take care of itself with a minimum amount of human intervention.

We also need to start growing food everywhere we can. There’s an ugly concrete patio just off our back door. We could have spent much money and effort to jackhammer it and replace it with a yuppie entertaining deck but instead we’re growing food on it. We built some self-watering containers (for instructions on how to do this see our earlier post) and we’re growing collard greens, tomatoes and southern highbush blueberries, so far with great success. It looks like a meth amphetamine lab. But since it provides tasty fresh food, who give a damn?

Sourdough Recipe #1 The Not Very Whole Wheat Loaf

Whole wheat fetishists will have to wait for our whole wheat sourdough loaf recipe (we’re working on it–whole wheat is trickier to work with than bad-ass white flour). In the meantime here’s the Homegrown Evolution Not Very Whole Wheat Loaf based on a recipe by Nancy Silverton. You can use either our whole wheat starter or our white starter. And though the instructions are long, this is an easy recipe assuming that you have been good about feeding your starter every day and keeping it in a warm place.

Though far less complicated than manufacturing meth amphetamines (not that we know anything about that), making sourdough also benefits from accuracy in measurements, so the use of a scale will give you better results. We’ve tried to give equivalents in cups, but differences in humidity could bite you in the ass and the scale will make things easier.

Ingredients:

8 oz sourdough starter (a little over 3/4 cups)
13 oz unbleached white bread flour (about 2 3/4 cups)
3 oz whole wheat flour (3/4 cups)
2 tablespoon wheat bran
1/2 tablespoon barley malt syrup (optional–makes a darker crust and boosts the rise)
8 oz cool water (about 1 cup)
1/2 tablespoon sea salt
1. Mix the starter, flours, wheat bran, barley malt syrup and water. Throw it all in a mixer fitted with a dough hook if you’ve got one, or knead by hand like hell for 4 minutes.

2. Let the dough rest under a cloth for 20 minutes

3. Mix in the salt and knead for another for another 6 minutes.

4. Put the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap (we use a glass bowl with a lid). Let it ferment in a warm place–in our case the top of a stove which has a pilot light for 3 to 4 hours.
5. Shape the dough into a boule (a pretentious way of saying a flattened ball) and place in a floured proofing basket. We have a wooden proofing basket, sometimes known as a “banneton”, which gives the finished loaf a medieval look, but you can also use a bowl draped with a cloth towel. Just make sure to flour the towel.

6. Put it in the refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours.

7. Take the boule out of the refrigerator and put it in a warm place to ferment for another 3 to 4 hours.

8. Preheat the oven to 500º. Take the boule out of the proofing basket. We slam it upside down onto a scrap of floured cardboard. Slash the loaf on the top.

9. Using the cardboard, slide the loaf into the oven. We have a cheap cooking stone. Turn the oven down to 450º. Spray some water into the oven using a spray bottle. This simulates the fancy steam injection systems that commercial bakeries have. Steam will give your loaf an old-world style hard crust and will be a strike against all those Wonder Bread counter-revolutionaries out there.

10. For the next five minutes open the door of the oven 2 or 3 more times and spray some water in. We’ve also just tossed water in with a glass if we don’t have a sprayer on hand.

11. After five minutes continue to bake for another 20 minutes, but don’t open the oven door.

12. After 20 minutes open the oven and rotate the loaf. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes for a total of 40 to 45 minutes until the crust turns a dark brown.

13. Remove the loaf from the oven, but resist the urge to break into it. It’s still cooking and you could get a stomach ache from the still active wild yeasts. Let it cool down before slicing.

There’s not much labor involved with making this bread especially if you’ve got a mixer, but it does require some scheduling. You’ll note that the time in the refrigerator gives you some flexibility if you’re not a complete homebody.

If you try this recipe, leave a comment and let us know how it went!

Post Petroleum Lecture

Albert Bates, author of a brand new book The Post Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook will be speaking at the Audubon Center at Debs Park on Saturday March 24th as part of the 2007 Sustainable Habitats Lecture Series. The series is put together by permaculture expert David Khan, and those of you who missed the last lecture, raw milk outlaw and dairyman Mark McAfee, missed an engaging, and provocative afternoon. So don’t miss this next one! From Khan’s announcement:

Albert Bates is a permaculture and appropriate technology instructor at the Eco village Training Center at The Farm community in Summertown, Tennessee, inventor of solar cars, pedal flour sifters and cylindrical tofu presses, and author of eleven books, including Shutdown: Nuclear Power on Trial (1979) and Climate in Crisis: The Greenhouse Effect and What We Can Do (1990). His Post-Petroleum Survival Guide and Cookbook: Recipes for Changing Times (New Society 2006) envisions the world as it will be transformed by peak oil and climate change, and offers a prescription for re-inhabitation. As one of the founders of the Eco village Network of the Americas (1994) and the Global Eco village Network (1995), Albert used his lifetime of eco-community living skills to create an incendiary meme, sparked by dedicated individuals and fueled by the pressing necessity of changing the way in which human communities relate to nature.

Place: Audubon Center at Debs Park
4700 Griffin Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90031

Time:10:00 AM
Cost:$10 on-line $15 at the door
Instructions for payment: RSVP and pay on-line using PayPal www.sustainablehabitats.org

Should you not be able to make it, Bates will be appearing the next day at the Los Angeles Eco-Village on Sunday March 25th at 8 pm. There is a suggested donation of $10 for the lecture. The Los Angeles Eco-Village is located at:

117 Bimini Place
Los Angeles, CA 90004.