Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chinese Street Food Brunch

Hanne Blank making the magic happen this morning at Mill Valley.

Her Chinese street food brunch was a great way to spend Sunday morning. Since I haven't been able to attend the last two foodmaker potlucks, this was kind of a quick fix.

Red-cooked eggs and tofu for the congee (rice porridge)

An assortment of toppings

Crepe filled with you tiao (fried bread), egg, sprouts, cilantro

Congee, or jook, rice porride with the red-cooked eggs, pork (I don't eat any but my friend Jason had his with), cilantro, sprouts, chili-ginger sauce, pickled cabbage... mmm. I can see this being the perfect Chinese comfort food, and so fun to add your own assortment of favorite toppings.

Since I always talk about Mill Valley on here and I was already taking photos of Hanne's brunch, I thought I'd take a few of the place where I buy most of my groceries.

Since Mill Valley has mostly produce and protein products, I even got my shopping done for Passover. Looks like this week I'll be eating bison stew with carrots and onions, applesauce or yogurt for breakfast, fried eggs or melted cheese on matzah, salad with pickled beets, and more.

Here's a little tour around the premises:

You can see the kiosks with spices and natural herbal beauty products around the cute eating area (Mick the Pirate from Whiskey Island Spices also cooks brunches often, you can find out more on the Mill Valley website).

The pile of sacks is corn for Baltimore Biomass. In the top photo you can see the jars of McCuthcheon's and other local canned food in the background (in addition to some other natural food products.)

Area for picking up local produce. Right now it's all onions and potatoes, but come August, this area will be bursting with different veggies and fruits. You can also see the cooler for Gunpowder Bison products.

More local meat and Trickling Springs ice cream

Dairy products, including milk in re-fillable glass jugs, eggs, lettuce, and homemade Cuban sauces

And lots of started seedlings for sale

This brunch was my friend Jason's first visit to Mill Valley, and its always fun introducing a new person to a fresh take on the food buying experience.

So I thought I'd show you all around a little too! Of course, you can check out all the local food purveyors on the Mill Valley website.

Upcoming 2640 Events (April 7th : Dave Jacke : "Gardening Like the Forest" )

I don't know if it's because of springtime or what, but it seems like there are events galore these days!

Just got the information for the rescheduled Dave Jacke, "Gardening Like the Forest" talk up on the 2640 website. Save the date for April 7th. I'll be stewarding the event, so I will see you there.

Now I'm off to Mill Valley to load up on yogurt, beets, eggs, and other grain-free food to get me through the week. Happy Passover, for those of you who celebrate.

I've got a lot of thoughts for posts about this holiday. What foodie wouldn't love a holiday full of symbolic eating and a celebration of the beginning of spring? And what political activist wouldn't love the story telling of a revolution for freedom? We'll see if I can manage to write something halfway decent about it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Earthship Webinar

Haha, I love this blog title phrase. I would definitely read that 1950s sci-fi book.

But wait! This is a real thing! The Earthship Biotecture organization is hosting an online learning session about the many facets of building a sustainable home.

From permits and housing codes to models for community building, this workshop is a how to for all you curious folks who want to build a new model for living. Plus its on Earth Day, so it's a nice way to celebrate.

April 22, 2010 @6pm MST (Mountain Standard Time)

Here is the information that was sent to me:

The webinar is a live presentation on the internet by Michael Reynolds from the famous Phoenix Earthship at the Earthship World Headquarters in Taos, NM, USA.

Earthship Green Building Seminar
Exciting workshops which will give you hands-on experience building Earthships.

2010 Seminar Schedule
May 28-30
June 25-27
September 24-26

An Earthship is a radically sustainable home made of recycled materials.

Electricity is from the sun with solar panels and wind with wind modules.

Water is caught on the roof from rain and snow melt.

Sewage is treated on site in interior and external botanical planters.

Heating & Cooling is from the sun and the earth.

Food is grown inside and outside.

BaltimoreDIY note: I love the beauty of earthships, with their vibrant colors, blossoming plants, and exotic structures. And I love how they push the boundaries of sustainable living to the fullest, creating a free space for alternative living.

But I haven't quite decided how I feel about the earthships issue of distancing oneself from human society. I think it could possibly lead to becoming disconnected from your average American and the push to change our overall societal structures for the better.

It's hard to understand why a stressful single mom would want to cook a Stouffer's meal when you live in a self-made Eden.

These are just some thoughts I have on the issue that I felt needed to be addressed. I still think these buildings are really beautiful, and I appreciate the Utopian ideal they embody. Maybe one day I could build an Earthship Rowhouse.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Calvert's Gift Farm

As part of the series of Small Farmer Training Classes through the Maryland Extension, yesterday I and a group of other newbies interested in Maryland Agriculture got to visit Calvert's Gift Farm. I feel like I've been doing a lot of text lately, so on this gray and rainy Friday, please enjoy this relaxing series of photos of their seedlings, hoop houses, and shitaake mushroom logs.

This swing looked kind of relaxing

The Calvert's Gift Farm website has a list of farmer's markets where they appear, CSA membership, and more information on the Small Farming Training classes.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Zines and Prints at the BMA

This is a weekend of stacked DIY fun!

Just found out about the Baltimore Fair for Contemporary Prints & New Editions.

The event runs on both Saturday the 27th and Sunday the 28th from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

So it looks like you can check out the limited edition portfolios, single-image prints, and local zines either after you're done painting beehives on Saturday or eating some delicious Chinese street food on Sunday.

So awesome that all of these events are within a 10 minute bike ride of each other.

Local zinesters and artists will be available- so many that I am afraid to list all of their names, because I'd have to start adding links and giving shoutouts to neighborhood shops, and my typing hands would explode! So just go to the BMA site and you can see all the details.

(That's the latest edition of Eight Stone Press's completely hilarious and rowdy Baltimore-centric zine pictured above.)

You can click on the link to the BMA event to see the variety of artists, panels, and tours at the event.

And there is going to be a special discussion of DIY printmaking:

Saturday, March 27, 11-5 p.m.

Learn about the do-it-yourself printmaking phenomenon directly from the artists! Participants include Atomic Books, Closed Captioned Comics, Eight Stone Press, The Holster, Jordan Jeffries, Gary Kachadourian, Leeking Inc., Narrow House, Shattered Wig Press, and Squidfire. Works by DIY Marketplace artists will be available for purchase, and two exhibitors will take part in the afternoon program, New Directions for Printmakers.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chinese Street Food Brunch this Sunday 3/28

Mama's congee., originally uploaded by Sebastian Mary.

Credit for taking this stunning photo must be given to Sebastian Mary over on Flickr.

It's a photo of congee, or rice porridge. If you'd like to have some of your own (and who wouldn't, after seeing this drool-worthy photo), look no further than Hanne Blank's Double Happiness Brunch at Mill Valley this weekend!

Beijing-style crepes made with egg, veggies, hoisin sauce, homemade chili-garlic paste, and a piece of fried bread (a.k.a. you tiao) are also going to be available. For only $6, I'm probably going to take Hanne's suggestion and try both!

And while you're at Mill Valley, don't forget that you can pick up local eggs, milk, dairy, meat, and canned produce that put the industrially produced stuff at the grocery store to shame. A cheap, homemade, unique breakfast and getting food shopping done at the same time? I'm there!

The Double Happiness Brunch is THIS SUNDAY 3/28 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Baltimore Food Buying Club

Check it out! There is now a bulk buying club in Baltimore!

BaltimoreDIY has the scoop on the details in case you want to order too. Get bulk beans or chickpeas so you can have a constant stream of cheap hummus, bean salad, or filler for quesadillas. Make crazily cheap and delicious bread, or get fair trade coffee for less!

Now that I've been baking up sourdough my pantry's need for good organic flour has gone way up. Those little 5 lb bags of King Arthur's flour at the grocery store just ain't filling my needs. (King Arthur is definitely an awesome company though. Employee owned!)

Here's a peek at the informational email that just came out.

What can I order?

Starting off, you will be able to order the following items. We will introduce new items in the following weeks as we expand our membership. All of these items are grown organically or made from organic ingredients.

Here's the order form for a list of items and prices.


$5! This fee will cover the expenses of the buying club.

We also ask that each member volunteer for one 2-hour shift (every 3 months). Volunteers will collect money or weigh out the items ordered on the day that we distribute the goods. We will send out a spread sheet where you can sign-up for your shift. If you cannot make your shift, we need to know at least one week in advance or you can have someone cover for you.


Orders will be placed twice a month. To place an order, fill out the online order form indicating the weight of each item that you want to order. Payments must be made by the date indicated on the buying club schedule (you cannot pay on the pickup day). If your payment is not received by the due date, your order will not be placed.


A service fee of 5% has been added to these prices. Prices may shift slightly from week to week.


You may drop your payment off in the mail slot of Cheryl Carmona's house at 312 E. 33rd St (between Guilford and Abell). Payments must be in cash and must be received before midnight on the date that orders are to be placed.

Picking up your order

Orders may be picked up at 1821 North Charles St. which is next to the Hexagon. The time is to be announced. BYOB- Bring your own bags (and containers)! To reduce waste, we encourage you to bring bags and containers to pick up your order.

In light of the recent frustrating article about Hipsters on Food Stamps, I sincerely hope this gives people a chance to reconsider their economic approach to food.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sowing Seeds DC Conference

Sowing Seeds Here and Now:
A Chesapeake Urban Farming Summit

The urban farming movement is growing every day. Check out this amazing upcoming event!

(Don't forget that you can click on the image of the flyer to zoom in.)

Engaged Community Offshoots (ECO) is partnering with organizations all over the Chesapeake region to discuss the growth of local food. If you're interested in developing new economies, personal health, environmental health, food security, and community structures, community gardening is a great development.

Will Allen's organization, Growing Power, is one of the main program at the forefront of the urban farming movement. For a Baltimore example, you don't need to look further than the CivicWorks Real Food Farm at Clifton High School.

I will keep you all updated as plans for this conference develop. This is going to be a fabulous networking opportunity for different organizations all over the region, and I can't wait to see the energy that Will Allen is going to bring to urban farming in our area.

Save the date for Friday, June 18th!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Poppy Bread Spirals

Every since Purim and eating the yummy hamantaschen cookies that are part of the holiday, I've been obsessed with poppy seeds.

And since sourdough has been a big part of my life since receiving some starter last December, I decided to try a sourdough poppy-seed swirl bread.

I must admit, it only turned out mediocre.

I didn't have any milk at the time so I just added butter to the bread. Milk usually makes the bread soft, and I thought butter might do the same. I could also have added mashed potatoes.

As I was adding warm melted butter to the flour, it occurred to me that the heat might actually start to cook the flour as I was kneading it. I think that might be what happened, or I over-kneaded the bread. It turned out a little tough.

Still, it came out pretty even though it was dense. A nice solid loaf to have with the remains of my seasonal canned produce: applesauce and kraut.

As the bread sat for a few days the sweet poppy filling and butter actually made the inside swirl of the bread kind of moist, so it turned rather pastry-like.

Not a perfect baked good, but a fun project.

I started thinking about poppy plants in general, and where the poppies came from, which got me started thinking about Afghanistan. It's too bad that such an amazing plant is so often destroyed because of drugs and the effects of the drug war.

And I wound up typing this into Google:
"afghanistan support agriculture peace poppy"

Oh goodness. I started doing some reading, but to untie the many tangles of the drug war (and to be more poppy-specific, the war in Afghanistan), I'd have to be getting paid to write this article and do the research.

But in any case, I found a few interesting links about agriculture in Afghanistan and it's connection to working towards peace. Here they are if you are interested.

Poppies for Peace: Reforming Afghanistan's Opium Industry

USAID website on alternative economic growth in Afghanistan

Growing Saffron as an Alternative to Poppy

(o.k. this last one sounds sweet, and paella with saffron tastes really good, but I'm not quite sure saffron costs can outpace the drive for heroin)

It's too bad that poppy can't be protected and used as a food and medicine source while preventing drug lords from turning it into heroin, but I just don't know if that's realistic. If anyone has read any good articles on the subject, I'm kind of curious.

Know Your Watershed

Yesterday was one of the first days it really felt like spring. My brother and I decided to take a walk through Wyman Park on our way to a restaurant to grab a few beers. On our way there we noticed a sign that said "Stream Reconstruction."

And what a pretty reconstruction it is!

This stream is part of the Jones Falls Watershed, gathering up the run-off from Baltimore City and carrying it into the Harbor. It used to be a narrow little gulley blocked off by a high concrete wall.

After a moment of noticing the beauty of this stepped waterfall, it occurred to me that the structure probably had a purpose. The steps help break the water's flow, thus preventing erosion. Pretty & functional!

Plus now there is a slight hill on the banks of the stream, which will make it easier for people to come interact with the stream. Getting to know your watershed is a great way to clean up our local water, which as we all know is the most vital resource on the planet.

Check out these great watershed associations to learn how you can be involved in projects like pulling invasive weeds, adopting a stream, or purchasing a rain barrel:

Jones Falls Watershed

Herring Run Watershed

Gwynns Falls Watershed

Baltimore Harbor Watershed Association

Which watershed do YOU live in?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

When to Harvest Last Fall's Garlic?

Quick gardening question. Remember the garlic I planted in buckets last year?

If I planted the garlic last fall, isn't the garlic ready this spring? When do you think would be a good time to pull up the bulbs?

Maybe I'll just give a call to the Grow It Eat It Network with the UMD Extension.

Who ya gonna call? Master Gardeners!

Afternoon Update:

Thanks to the beauty of Twitter, I now know that the garlic should be ready to harvest sometime around July. Yay for @redhousemaria and @LizEnslin.

Liz even reminded me that the garlics will send up big shoots (or scapes as they are called) that are ready to harvest before the garlic is. You can chop them up and use them like scallions in salads, omelets, etc.

If this post gives you the hankering to start some garlic of your own, you can still plant garlic in the spring. The garlic will be a little smaller than the fall-planted heads, and I did read on some sites that the garlic needs to be chilled first to mimic winter.

I googled "spring garlic planting" and found a variety of advice.

Kind of funny that if all goes well I will only have five heads of garlic. Container gardening is starting to feel a bit cramped!

Ah well, I figure that last year I did container gardening, this year I will have a small garden plot, and next year... who knows!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tiny Foods at the Visionary

A few weeks ago I heard about a Tiny Food party, where people made things like miniature hoagies and doughnuts out of real food.

There were all kind of prizes and event categories, I tried to find pictures but was having a hard time. If someone has any, let me know! Sounded like a fun time and I was sorry I missed it.

Then I found out about this free event "Melting Pot: A Food Salon" on Saturday, March 20 at the Visionary Art Museum.

And guess what! From 4-5pm, some of the small foods winners will be in the classroom in the main building of the Visionary Museum.

There will be a little slideshow about the history of the party, and small foods of the past. Then they'll do a small food show and tell (this is the part with the doughnuts) and then finally the workshop itself, where people can make their own small foods.

Here's a link to the Visionary Art Museum's events page:

Too bad I've got to miss out on the soft pretzel making!

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Starting seeds!

It's pouring down rain this weekend, but all next week is supposed to be sunny. My goal is to get the early spring vegetables in my very first garden plot in the Remington Community Garden.

I'm excited for the picture above because it really shows the variety of ways you can get seeds.

Beans and hot pepper seeds were easy to collect from last year's plants because they dry right on the vine.

Broccoli rabe and pumpkin seeds came from friends I met at last year's Maker's Faire, and I got tobacco seeds by sending an email to a Texas blogger who had some to spare.

Packets of ornamental flowers, corn, and tomato seeds were from a free giveaway at Mill Valley.

The only seeds I really bought were my early spring vegetables like beets, radishes, carrots, and peas from Baker Creek, as well as herb seeds from Horizon Herbs. I also picked up some kale from Baltimore's own Meyer Seed Company.

Another way to propagate plants is from cuttings or shoots. I've talked about aloe propagation before. This time I thought I would try lavender cuttings from a plant I bought last summer.

While a lot of the seeds I have need to be sown directly into the soil, I did start just a few seedlings several nights ago.

Here is the set-up with my grow light:

Luffa seeds are in the big basket. Tobacco seeds are in another container, and I also made some cactus cuttings along with the lavender. Hopefully tomato seedlings will be started in a few weeks.

In the summer I may convert this seedling table into a little growing area for lettuces and other herbs. A mini salad table of sorts.

It's still cool outside, but I believe it's a good time to put in kale, beets, radishes, carrots, and peas. If everything works out well, I'm hoping to grow those early spring crops until the beginning of June.

Then I plant on putting in a trifecta of beans, corn, and pumpkins in the Three Sisters style of companion gardening. I'll try to squeeze a few tomatoes in there somewhere. The plan is to have those crops grow from early June to September-ish. Can any experienced gardeners let me know if that timing seems about right?

After that I figure I can squeeze in a few more fall crops like beets and daikon radish, and maybe even put in some garlic to overwinter. Then it will be time for a cover crop to leave over the winter!

In between all of that I hope to put in a few flowers and herbs like sunflowers, lavender, tarragon. Those types of plants help to attract pollinators as well as predatory insects that can feed on mites and other pests that destroy crops and spread disease.

The Remington plot is going to be stretched to the limit with these food crops, so I'm hoping to get some space at Participation Park for herbs and flowers. I also am hoping to use their good, strong chain link fence as a trellis for my exciting project of growing luffa seeds to use as all natural sponges.

I've got a few organic potatoes from last year's CSA sprouting in my fridge so it might be nice to figure out space for a potato tower too...

Can't wait to harvest a few choice plants so I can collect their seeds for next year!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is Canning Too Trendy?

"At-home preserving is ridiculously trendy."

So says Sara Dickerman in this recent Slate article. Yikes.

She goes on to basically picture home-canners as rosy-cheeked obsessive gourmands who are interested mostly in the photographic nature of their end product.

I guess it's true that with any trend there is always a backlash.

There are some truthful points to the article. Ball jars sure are photogenic. Canning is often a weekend activity that gets blogged about. Organic and heirloom crops can cost more than grocery store food. We foodmakers can sometimes sound self-satisfied when talking about our projects.

But to say "let's be honest: It's not about producing serious food for the future, and it's not about shaking a fist at industrial food" is not just negative, it's downright wrong.

I originally started this blog post by pulling out various points in the article I disagreed with, from the argument that canning your own food isn't frugal to the insinuation that relishes and jellies aren't real food.

But after reading the comment section in the article, pretty much all of my thoughts were covered.

I happen to love food. I want to eat food that contains real ingredients, not corn syrup and preservatives. I like creating flavors and tastes that can't be bought in the store.

Paying attention to seasonal food has made me feel like a happier, healthier, human being. It's nice to live more in sync with the seasons and to be aware of the resources that foodmaking uses. Sorry if that gets annoying.

Sure, canning isn't for everyone. It's hard work. It's not as cheap as grocery store food. But if the art of preserving food were to die out, America would sure be in a tough spot. What if the trucks that bring the cans to the grocery store stop running?

Canning is about retaining our skills as self-reliant human beings.

It's about supporting farmers who treat crops as organisms, not as commodities.

It's about limiting the oil and resources used to ship, process, and package our food.

It's about supporting diversity of species with heirloom crops, and respecting the natural change of seasons.

It's about eating food stripped down to it's essence, not plumped up with corn syrup and cellulose gum.

Food is a vehicle for experience. To watch someone's eyes light up when they taste a slice of homemade pickled watermelon rind was worth the several cents and hours of time it cost to make the pickle.

As one commenter wrote:

Whether this particular food trend will continue is largely dependent on whether people enjoy it. ...

Those who stop will find it tedious, exacting or expensive. Those who stick with it are the ones who enjoy it, who are committed to it and who see the value to themselves and their family. I think it sounds like tons of practical fun.

I’m sure there is likely to be a lot of Ball jars in the recycle bin in the near-ish future, which is of less concern than ‘what’s gonna happen to all those backyard chickens?'

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Listener Supported Radio

So I am a little late for posting this since the WFMU marathon has been going on since March 1st. But it will be continuing until March 14th, so MAKE YOUR PLEDGE NOW.

Don't know what WFMU is? Here's the description from their website.

WFMU-FM is a listener-supported, non-commercial radio station broadcasting at 91.1 Mhz FM in Jersey City, NJ, right across the Hudson from lower Manhattan. It is currently the longest running freeform radio station in the United States.

WFMU does not belong to any existing public radio network, and close to 100% of its programming originates at the station.

My personal connection to WFMU began after my brother sent me a link to an archive of The Best Show.

Like many cult shows, The Best Show make take a a little while to grow on you. It might be confusing at first. Once you get into it though, you'll be a Friend of Tom for life.

Here are some photos from a fan gathering in New Jersey last fall. This baby was partying it up there.

I am rather afraid to start explaining what the Best Show is, since it kind of goes beyond words, but if you like super-cool music, sharp humor at its best, and the likes of Aimee Mann, Paul F. Tompkins, John Hodgman, Ted Leo, Patton Oswalt, and more, the Best Show is for you.

See @scharpling's Twitter page for an inside peek as well.

TONIGHT is going to be a marathon pledge show for the ages. John Hodgman and Patton Oswalt will be live in the studio! Tom will show you what true energy is!

Archives can be found here. Of course, you can also sign up for the podcast.

For a brief intro into The Best Show, I recommend listening to the 11/12/05 podcast of The Sound of Young America.

(It's all about the public radio! Commercial free and independent.)

If you want to throw some support, please call 800-989-9368 or pledge online at BETWEEN 8-11 PM EST

There are tons of other amazing WFMU shows as well, like Seven Second Delay, Evan Funk Davies, Liz Berg, Terre T's Cherry Blossom Clinic, and more.. they have seriously changed my music and comedy world. This radio station is the best.

There is so much more to say about Tom Scharpling & The Best Show, but I will try to keep it short. All I will say is that few things fuel my Do-It-Yourself fire like Tom Scharpling playing Rollins:


Monday, March 8, 2010


To round out the day of posting about various events around town: update on last Friday's STEW!

(Click on the photo to see a larger image of the menu.)

Although I wasn't able to attend, I still stopped by for a minute to check out the menu and see some friends. It's always fun to see what the STEW kitchen crew does with the foods of the season.

Carrot soup with cinnamon and chervil
Oxtail & shank, potato, carrot stew
Turnips, caramelized mushrooms, celeriac root
(and can someone tell me what cider gastrique is?)

I wish I had gotten a better photo of these great mushroom piles!

The Stews

And the cornmeal cake. Too bad I didn't get to snag a taste of the homemade beet ice cream!

And the crowd

This month's community groups:

Better Waverly Community Art Center
House of Ruth Advocate Through Art Program
United Workers
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