Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In Our Control: This One's For the Ladies

In the most comprehensive book on birth control since the 1970s, women's health activist Laura Eldridge discusses the history, scientific advances, and practical uses of everything from condoms to the male pill to Plan B.

Do diaphragms work? Should you stay on the Pill? What does fertility awareness really mean? Find these answers and more in In Our Control, the definitive guide to modern contraceptive and sexual health. Eldridge presents her meticulous research and unbiased consideration of our options in the intimate and honest tone of a close friend. Eldridge goes on to explore large-scale issues that might factor into women's birth control choices, urging her readers to consider the environmental impacts of each method and to take part in a dialogue on how international reproductive health issues affect us all.

Whether you're looking for your first birth control method or want to know more about your current contraceptive choice, In Our Control offers the cutting edge information and practical wisdom you’ll need to make empowered decisions about your sexual health.

Wed 6/30 - 7 pm
Red Emma's
800 St Paul St

And now some BaltimoreDIY tips for the ladies who want to live sustainably (men are free to read this and learn too!)

This is an issue that often gets overlooked because people are embarrassed to talk about it. I never even heard that there was an alternative to pads and tampons until I was in college.

Then I learned about the reusable silicone cup. It's marketed as the DivaCup, the Keeper, the Moon Cup, or other names. Although this product isn't for everyone, I'm a big fan, and it definitely cuts down on your carbon footprint.

No more trash cans full of disposable and non-biodegradable feminine products!

I personally went with the DivaCup since it was the brand they had at Whole Foods. It's sad that these aren't more widely marketed! People may be put off because the price is higher than a box of tampons, but the price of course drops off the more you use the product.

Although you have to be a little more familiar with your body to use the DivaCup, I kind of like that. I'm more comfortable and aware of my cycle, instead of ignoring it or treating it like a mess to be cleaned up.

Once you learn how to use one, they are completely comfortable. And I'm not religious about it, if I feel like taking a break I'll just use a biodegradable pad or tampon from organic cotton. Some women make their own pads, or you can even buy them on Etsy.

If you're not ready for the cup, try the fabric or biodegradable kind of feminine products. There are pros and cons to every option, and you can decide on which one works for you.

The same goes for exploring birth control options! Visit your doctor or Planned Parenthood. There are many options beyond the Pill that don't get a lot of media attention, and even some that don't result in a change in your hormone levels (which I am a fan of.)

All it takes is asking questions and getting to know your body.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Eat Beets: Drinks, Salads, and Salt-Fermentation

This weekend I finally harvested my remaining Bull's Blood beets. Not only did I grow a ton in my garden, they've been coming in the One Straw CSA delivery pick up each week. I put the recently harvested beets in the fridge, but decided to break into my stash of previously pickled beets for eating. So what to do with all of these beets?

Drink them!

That's right. On Saturday the heat index was over 100 degrees here in Baltimore City. Way to hot to do anything like make roasted beets. And I certainly didn't feel like eating a heavy dish of root vegetables when it was sweltering outside. All I wanted was something light and liquidy.

So this easy, blender-free beet smoothie was the invention I came up with. Here's the smoothie before I mixed it up:

It may sound strange, but I really like drinking the liquid from pickled beets. It's just apple cider vinegar, beet juice, salt, and maybe some sugar. Very refreshing and healthy. And also a great way to make use of the pickle juice!

I mixed in plain yogurt with the beet juice to make the drink a little more substantial.

Since the yogurt and beet juice were both sour, I added a little honey to sweeten it up. Just mix up with a spoon. No electricity for a blender needed!

Canning more pickled beets was also out of the question, since I really didn't want to be boiling huge kettles of water in my kitchen. A discussion board on the Baltimore Foodmakers reminded me that salt fermentation is another way to preserve vegetables. And the great thing is, I didn't have to turn on the stove.

Wild Fermentation to the rescue! I don't have the book in front of me, but I believe I added about one tablespoon of sea salt to one (?) cup of water.

In one jar I put chopped up beet leaves and poured the brine over top, making sure the leaves were pressed down under the liquid. I sealed the jar and put it in my fridge for a week.

The liquid from these salt-fermented beet leaves tastes very beet-y and is just a little salty. I like pouring some of it into a glass of water to make the H20 more exciting to drink. Plus the salt probably replenishes everything I've been sweating out.

This drink probably won't please everyone, but if you like the flavor of beets, you'll like it. And it's an equally lovely shade of magenta!

In another jar I put in golden beets that I had sliced up into matchsticks (Which I'm very proud of! The shapes are lovely and make this jar look very classy.)

For additional flavor I threw in some coriander seeds (that's what is floating on top.) A few little cloves, pieces of star anise, and a black cardamom pod went in there too. Remember, that's in addition to the tablespoon of salt and cup of water.

This jar of golden beets was sealed up for a week in my fridge as well. Of course, you could leave these salt-fermented foods in your fridge for much longer. Some people do this right on their counters, but since it's been so hot I felt it would be better to let things ferment slowly in the fridge.

They made a great crunchy addition to the creaminess of a potato salad with yogurt-pesto dressing.

The pesto was made with arugula and spinach from One Straw, and the potatoes were also from the CSA pickup. Makes a really great cold salad for these hot summer days.

Here it is all mixed up:

I love growing beets because you get to eat both the root and the leaf, and they're really delicious pickled which makes them an easy item to can and store for eating year round.

If you think you don't like beets, maybe give them another try! There are many ways to eat them.

I'd love to hear some of your ways to eat seasonally and creatively!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Druid Hill Moon

After work yesterday I rode over to the Ruscombe Mansion for a Parks and People potluck and focus group meeting about their resources for gardens in Baltimore.

On the way home from the potluck I saw the moon rising over a sunset and the Druid Hill TV towers and had to pull my bike over to take a photo. So pretty!

If you're looking for a fun weekend event, don't forget that Pile of Craft is going down on Saturday at 2640.

After you've had your morning Red Emma's coffee and perused the lovely handmade goods, you can always head down to Patterson Park and check out LatinoFest.

If you're planning on hitting up the beach on Saturday, think about joining hands at 11 a.m. in support of our oceans against unsafe drilling practices. Now is the time to show community support for more sustainable energy use!

As for me, I've got a bunch of family things to do and will probably taking it easy. The last few beets need to come out of the garden and that's about it until the tomatoes start coming in and the pepper seedlings turn in to real plants. The plan is to sit around and read as much as I can.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Blight or Not Blight?

UPDATE: Other people have suggested that this is NOT blight. Phew! A little embarrassed for needing to double check, but I was nervous and the multi-colored leaves looked different than the usual all tan and wilted dead leaves.

Any additional feedback is welcome as always. I'd love to become more skilled in plant disease diagnosis! Need to take the Master Gardeners class I guess.

Anyway, here's the original post:


At the Remington Village Green community garden yesterday, we noticed that one plot full of potatoes had some wilting leaves and brown and yellow spots.

Is it the blight?!

The owners of the plot said that they took some of the leaves in to Meyer Seed and also to their work where the potato leaves looked the same.

They were told that "the potatoes have started putting all of their energy into the tubers and less into the leaves, making the leaves less healthy (they're dying)."

What do you all think? Normal decay, or some kind of disease?

After some Google searching I found this site that outlines a very simple and straightforward list of different tomato diseases, along with some photos.

If you want to avoid disease in your own garden, a good tip is to tear off any old leaves that are touching the ground.

Gardening isn't just about watering your plants! Pruning your plants is just as important. Not only is your plant able to spend more energy on fruit and new growth, you will increase air flow to your plant and prevent the spread of soil-borne molds, viruses, and fungi.

Another tip: If you notice any little insect holes, turn over leaves and check the underside for egg sacs.

Prevention is the easiest method of dealing with garden pests and diseases.

Especially in community gardens, when infection of one plant could potentially spread to many other garden plots, it's important to take the extra time and prune your plants!

Happy gardening, and I look forward to your advice. Help me out, Maryland Cooperative Extension!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

BaltimoreDIY in the news!

Baltimore Sun Kombucha article!

I got a call recently from the Baltimore Sun after fellow foodmaker and friend Mattan let the reporter know that I am into fermenting. Thanks Mattan!

That's him pictured above holding a jar of kombucha. Photo taken by Kim Hairston of the Baltimore Sun.

I liked the article a lot. Public opinion about kombucha is all over the map, with some folks claiming it to be an elixir of life, while others see it as weird and potentially dangerous foodie experimentation. This article explored all of these issues in a balanced and knowledgeable manner.

Thanks Laura Vozzella! Great article.

And congrats to Julie Scharper, the Baltimore Sun writer and Twitteress whose compost heap gets a mention in the article, and to my own Chicken Man/Chemist who also gets a mention in the article.

A photo of my hibiscus tea flavored kombucha is floating around on the Flickr account, but if you've missed it:

Kind of hilarious that you can see the "pasturized for your safety" label on the lid of the recycled glass bottle when kombucha is the exact opposite of pasteurization!

Actually haven't brewed a batch in a while. The main thing I've been drinking is the apple cider and apricot flavored shrub for a sour treat.

The kombucha has more sugar than the shrub, and it's been too hot to drink something kind of sugary. These days if I'm not drinking a hoppy beer, I like a cold glass of water with a dash of the cider vinegar shrub.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer Solstice 2010

I can always count on my fellow fairie Katie Red to celebrate the changing of the seasons with me. Last night we had a lovely dinner to celebrate the solstice and Midsummer!

Many people celebrate the longest day of the year (or shortest, if you are in the southern hemisphere) by staying up all night and watching the sunrise. Since our schedules didn't permit that, we celebrated at the end of the day instead.

Celebrating the equinox and solstice hasn't always been on my calendar. But since I've started living a life that's more in sync with the natural world, I've really enjoyed taking note of the cycles of life on earth. The sun isn't to be taken for granted!

The table is a little dark, but we had candles, white wine, bread, cheeses, yogurt, and honey. Plus I brought over some of the strawberry jam from the canning class, homemade pesto from One Straw Farm spinach and arugula, and pickled carrots that I harvested a few weeks ago.

Here is a photo of the leftovers that I had for breakfast and lunch today. Breakfast was the yogurt with strawberry jam and a few pickled beets. For lunch I had the pesto with pickled carrots and feta cheese rolled up in a pita. Yum!

Gathering herbs is a custom for many during the peak of summer, so I gathered up a little bouquet of herbs from the garden to scent the celebration. No photos of that, but we did take one of the salad. Nasturium blossoms and leaves, lilies, pea shoots, and two kinds of basil:

Somewhat spicy, pungent, and sweet!

Plus I brought over sparklers to celebrate the light of the sun

Special thanks to Katie Red's husband Jason & Katie S for celebrating with us too. And thanks to Katie Red and Jason for taking photos.

Hooray for the peak of summer! Harvest time is coming. Getting ready for the deluge of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash...

Welcome, Holly King! Goodbye for six months, Oak King!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sowing Seeds Here and Now

It's going to be quiet here on BaltimoreDIY for today and tomorrow. I'll be at the Sowing Seeds Here and Now! conference.

Can't wait!

In collaboration with key partners across the Chesapeake area, Engaged Community Offshoots, Inc. is organizing and hosting Sowing Seeds Here and Now!: A Chesapeake Area Urban Farming Summit on Friday, June 18th, 2010. The goal of our one-day hands-on learning and strategizing event is to catalyze and support urban farming throughout our greater metropolitan DC area.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Your Laundry Habits Make a Difference


Throughout its lifecycle, a pair of jeans consumes as much energy as powering a personal computer for 556 hours. You can reduce the full lifecycle climate change impact of your jeans by up to 50% by line drying and washing them in cold water.

Levi's Care to Air Contest is a new campaign that is sharing these ideas in sustainability. For a chance at winning the $4,500 grand prize, just submit your designs for easier, more efficient air drying technologies. You can also view the current entries and vote on your favorites.

Contest announcement and description found on Craftzine.

Protecting our Waters: DIY Style

Yes I know, I'm late on the news. I think my brain needed a while to hide from the oil spill. But today I finally decided to take that step and donated to help restore the Gulf.

For a while I kept thinking that BP ought to be the ones footing the bill for this disaster. Then I realized that's a mean and short-sighted way of thinking.

As a society, we are all part of this. Someone has been giving BP their massive profits by demanding as much oil as cheaply as possible. That someone is us.

Of course, BP cut corners and should pay. Dearly. But sitting back and pointing fingers doesn't clean up the Gulf.

And also, why not donate? I spend money on beer, clothes, the Arrested Development DVD box set.. with my savings from eating less meat and riding a bike instead of buying gas, I can afford to spend a little to protect one of the most valuable resources on Earth.

The funny thing is, it was this t-shirt (image pictured above) from Threadless that finally got me to donate. I kept feeling unsure about which foundation to donate to, and this shirt pointed me in the right direction.

I ended up giving to the Gulf Restoration Network. The National Wildlife Federation and Waterkeeper Alliance are also places to explore.

If you'd like to support a local waterway, the Chesapeake Bay could always use a helping hand. (I've posted about learning your watershed in the past.)

A quick search turned up the website Bay Dreaming with a list of DIY ways to protect the water around you. Here are a few examples:

1. Use a rainbarrel to water your lawn, garden, or plants. The rainwater will get used by the plants instead of carrying run-off from the street into the Bay.

2. Buy a Chesapeake Bay license plate.

3. Clean up litter around local streams.

4. Grow an oyster garden!

5. Replace your boring lawn with BayScaping to restore native habitat and protect plant diversity.

Turn on the tap and realize how lucky we are to have a constant source of sanitary water. I never want that to go away. Let's do what we can now to protect it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

This weekend I'm relaxing and being a porch potato

My potatoes hanging out at HonFest.

The annual festival celebrating 1950s and 60s kitsch Baltimore goes on every year right outside my window in Hampden. Lots of beehives, leopard print, cat's eye glasses, and festival food. I took a brief walk to get an iced coffee and some kettle corn, but otherwise I am just watching the parade from inside my slightly cooler apartment.

The potatoes were left over from last year's CSA. I basically I threw them in some soil in the bottom of one of these burlap sacks. As the potato plants grow, I roll up the side of the bags and add more soil on top. After the plants flower and die back, supposedly I will have a bag full of potatoes!

I've been a bit of a "porch potato" myself this weekend. All I want to do is nap. Too hot to do much else. It feels good to step back and relax every once in a while.

Sadly I did miss the June foodmakers potluck. The theme was berries! And even though the potluck was in nearby Hamilton, my body decided it would rather take it easy and stay quiet.

The only foodmaker-y thing I did was boil some pea hulls and mint in water. Later on in the week I might try to make a mint-pea flavored jelly. Sometimes its nice to just do part of a project and save the rest for later.

I also picked up the first CSA shipment of the year! Lettuce, greens, radishes, strawberries, and garlic scapes were included. Nervous for the deluge of veggies that is to come.

Speaking of extra veggies and saving projects for later, I took the time to finally pack the kimchi from my bonanza of radish greens into smaller jars.

Off to read now. And perhaps I'll make a To Do list so I can take care of a few things during the week. It's been nice recharging the batteries though and taking it easy!

Hope everyone is enjoying their weekend.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Upcoming June Events

The 8th annual Tour Dem Parks, Hon!

Sunday, June 13, 2010
Carroll Park
1500 Washington Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21230
Registration starts at 7AM.

Presented By
The Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee
The Department of Recreation & Parks
The Department of Planning / Office of Sustainability

Tour dem Parks, Hon! is an annual bike ride held the second Sunday of June. The ride takes locals and visitors through Baltimore’s parks and neighborhoods. Riders get an up-close view of regional parks like Carroll, Patterson, Clifton and Druid Hill, as well as some quietly tucked away gems.

Participants choose from 4 routes: 14 miles--the family ride on the Gwynn’s Falls Trail, 25 miles, 35 miles, or a metric century (64 miles).

The Tour is followed by a relaxed barbecue with live music. Proceeds are donated to groups and non-profit organizations affiliated with parks, greening, and bicycling.

Tour dem Parks has grown from 250 riders in 2006 to over 1000 in 2009. As we expand our marketing and public relations efforts the ride continues to attract new participants, while many riders from previous years return.



And as always, 2640 dishes out events chock full of avant-garde culture, community grants, anti-war action, and handmade crafts.

Thursday June 10, 7 PM (Tonight!)
Screwed Anthologies: Improvised music under the influence of the late DJ Screw

Saturday June 12, 5 PM
New Community Grants in Baltimore!

Wednesday June 16, 7 pm
Presented by the Civilian-Soldier Alliance and Iraq Veterans Against the War:Young people speaking about life in the middle of war, views from Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and America. www.thepeoplesjourney.org/

Wednesday June 23, 7:30 pm
The Friction Brothers and Trockeneis

Saturday June 26, 10 am - 5 pm
Pile of Craft!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Spring Harvest Pickling: Beets, Fennel, & Carrots

Between the oil spill, last weekend's tragic shooting in Mt. Vernon where an off-duty Baltimore officer fatally shot an unarmed Marine 13 times, the continuing morass in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Gaza blockade, the economy... the negatives start to pile up sometimes.

Maybe that's why I and so many others are escaping to the garden.

I count myself pretty lucky in this world, and try to keep a positive spin on things. The garden is a place where things are constantly growing, neighbors come around to say hello, rainwater stays clean, and insects, birds, flowers, and seeds are everywhere.

Instead of feeling powerless about the news, I've decided to aim for a life that contributes to fixing what I believe is broken.

Repairing the soil, water, and air through plants, reducing fossil fuel use, using reusable instead of disposable goods, and meeting other Baltimore citizens who care about positive action are all things I can do instead of worrying about the news.

Tending to the garden and preparing vegetables happens to be extremely meditative for me. Which is lucky, because Sunday meant harvesting about half of my early spring vegetables, putting in summer plants, and canning some of the excess.

I harvested about one-fourth of the Bull's Blood beets, all of the golden beets, and all of the carrots:

I left a few of the best looking plants in the ground to save for seed.

For a little less than $10 worth of seed and a whole lot of labor, I sure got a lot of produce!

In the empty spaces where the beets and carrots used to be, I added compost and put in tomato seedlings, Mexican marigold seeds, sweet basil, and pumpkin seeds. Now to wait until July-September...

My friend Victor had a ton of fennel seedlings, so I asked him if I could have some of the fennel to pickle, and we could split it. It's nice to spread the canning love so more people can sustain themselves from homegrown produce year round. Plus it's a fun thing to do with friends!

After a little bit of resting, it was time to meditate (i.e. prep a whole bunch of veggies!) I cracked a beer, sat on the stoop, tore the tops off carrots, peeled beets, and sorted yummy beet greens from ones with insect damage. Lots of scraps for the compost worms!

Beet peeling tip: many people suggest boiling or roasting the beets, then slipping off their skins. I just treated the beets like ginger root and used the side of a spoon to scrape off the skin.

The beet greens were tossed with pieces of mango from Punjab. Drizzle the mango-greens salad with tahini, and you've got a perfect barbeque side dish.

I didn't have time to can the Bull's Blood beets or carrots, but I did manage to can the golden beets as I prepped the salad for the barbeque.

Pictured above: golden beets, fennel with hot pepper & peppercorns, carrots, and two mixed blends of carrot + golden beet and carrot + both beets + fennel. All pickled in white wine vinegar.

That's a lot of work on a Sunday for six small half-pints and two large salads worth of beet greens. But I've still got the raw carrots and Bull's Blood beets to prepare, so that's a lot of food for $10.

And for me, this is the kind of labor that puts my anxieties about the world to rest.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Upcoming Early June Events

Novella Carpenter comes to Baltimore, June 9, 2010!

Enoch Pratt Free Library
Main Branch, 7 p.m.

Food writer Novella Carpenter tells how she turned a vacant lot in one of the worst parts of Oakland, California, into a working mini-farm, complete with vegetables, herbs, chickens, ducks and bees.

Please join BEST and the Charm City Craft Mafia on Friday, June 18th for the first ever Baltimore Etsy Craft Meetup.

The event will happen Roosevelt Park in Hampden from 6 - 8pm.

This is a great opportunity to get our crafty community together and have a nice summer picnic, perhaps craft a thing or two and have some fun, and we invite you to bring some work in progress, a blanket, and a picnic dinner. You don't have to be a member of BEST or CCCM or even Etsy to attend - this event is for everyone. Non-crafty folks welcome, too. Oh, and the event is family-friendly as well!

We'll also be hosting an informal craft supply swap at the meetup, so please bring any crafty supplies you'd like to trade or giveaway. Any unclaimed supplies will be donated to Art with a Heart and The Black Cherry Puppet Theater.

Also, don't forget that Pile of Craft is at 2640 on June 26th!


B'more Local, a coalition for smarter development in the city, is hosting a free outdoor screening of CNBC’s “The New Age Of Walmart" at Howl.

The event will begin at 7:30, with discussion hosted by Wake Up Walmart, followed promptly by the free screening of this must-see film

Where: Howl (formerly Chow Baby)
3521 Chestnut Avenue
When: Friday, June 4th @ 7:30pm

This event is BYOB and feel free to bring your own lawnchairs, blankets, or other seating.

Local blog http://baltidome.wordpress.com/ is one of my favorite resources for upcoming sustainability events.

Parks & People and the Baltimore Urban Agriculture websites also have a really comprehensive list of different events to make our city a little more green.

Garden Update + Chicken Sitting

In February I sat down with a piece of paper and sketched out my spring garden and summer garden.

I decided to plant everything in mid-March and expected to harvest the spring crops around June 1st. It looks like I will be harvesting a little later than that, but not by much.

It's not too late to start a summer garden if you've been thinking about it. You'll just have to buy started seedlings instead of growing from seed. Squash, tomatoes, hot peppers, eggplants, okra, and more are appearing all over the Remington garden.

Pictured above is part of Wednesday night's dinner from the spring veggies. A lot of times I'll just eat the produce fresh from the garden without any cooking. Freshness is the flavor!

Since this is my first year really gardening, I've been learning more and more about the details that go along with each part of the season. The key to happy plants has been visiting the garden frequently and getting to know it.

This time of year requires mostly waiting eagerly for the beets and carrots to poke the tops of their roots out of the soil, and for the pea pods to become fat and happy. I'm really glad I planted kale since that provides a constant source of vegetables without waiting for a specific harvest time.

A few weeks ago the main task was thinning out the many seedlings so that the best crops had room to thrive. As we approach the early June harvest time for spring crops, my main tasks have been ripping off any older leaves that are drooping onto the soil since those often become vectors for disease.

Remember the mention of my beet leaf disease:

My friend Matt advised me to check out the undersides of the leaves. There are often little white egg sacs in clusters (very tiny, just a few millimeters or so). I've been wiping them off when I see them to prevent my beet leaves from getting destroyed.

So what's the garden status so far?

Radishes & Baby Bok Choy

Harvested a month ago. Made about two salads worth. Saved a few of the best plants to collect their seeds. Put a small section of black and white beans in their empty place.

Beets, Peas, & Carrots

Ready for harvesting in the next week or so. Planning on pickling the beets and most of the carrots. Probably won't save some for seed, although I am tempted. Would rather have the garden space.

Tomatoes & Pumpkins

A few tomato seedlings have gone into the ground already, along with a few basil plants. Once I harvest the spring crops I'll put in some compost and put more tomato seedlings in the empty spaces. Wish I had already started the pumpkins but looks like I'm going to have to start them from seed a little late.


My favorite part of the garden because they are super good for you, can be added to almost any dish, and most importantly they can be harvested at any time. So while I'm twiddling my fingers for months waiting for the root veggies or squash to grow, at least I've got kale. Roasted with oil, steamed, chopped up with beans for tortillas or to put in pasta, even juiced if you have the equipment, kale is really versatile in the kitchen.

And for an added update: this past week I've been chicken sitting!

There are three different breeds in the coop: Americanas, Rhode Island Reds, and White Orpingtons.

It's been fun seeing the way the different breeds interact. The Reds are the littlest and tend to stick together as a group. They hang out with the White Orpingtons in the lower part of the coops. The Whites are bigger and are a little more independent than the Reds.

The Americans are big and black, almost vulture looking.

They rule the roost in the upper part of the coop, and the other chickens pretty much steer clear of them.

Mostly I've been cleaning out the water dishes since the chickens won't drink their water if it's dirty. It's been fun chicken sitting (I got to kitten sit last weekend, so it's been a lot of fun with animals lately!). But I'm still excited for the Chicken Man to come back home.

New livestock posts to come? And stay tuned for gardening updates! And of course, I don't want this to just become about food, so activism is going to pop up somewhere... Happy June everyone!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Smile, Hon!": One of Baltimore's Best Zines Puts out the WASTE Issue

Defecation, Dumpster-diving and decaying old-world grandeur are but a few of the chunks backing up Waste, the latest "theme" issue in the award-winning Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore! series from Eight-Stone Press.

In this edition, ANGIE E cleans up Number Two in Aisle Four...again; EARL CROWN ponders the "Martin Gross Neglect" at Springfield Hospital Center; J. GAVIN HECK comes along, sings a song and joins the jamboree of one dirty rat; a good banana goes bad for J.T. CASSIDY; and A.J. MICHEL lays down just what happens – and where it all goes – after you flush, plus a whole lot more. Contributors include:


From the harbor to the hills, Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore! collects the tales of those on whom Mobtown has left her indelible mark. Polished, professional essays; barroom sermons delivered from the sanctity of a favorite stool; the poet's fleeting sentiment, captured in both word and snapshot – Smile, Hon offers a slice of Baltimore as told by Baltimore, presented with the time-honored DIY accessibility of a limited-run, handcrafted zine. A two-time Utne Independent Press Award nominee, Smile, Hon has also been dubbed "Best Zine" by Baltimore Magazine (2008) and Baltimore City Paper (2004). Previous theme issues have tackled such topics as rats, scars, crime, tattoos, transit, sex and the supernatural.

Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore! is an Eight-Stone Press production and is distributed by Atomic Books (Baltimore, MD); City Lights Books (San Francisco, CA); Cyclops Books (Baltimore, MD); Microcosm Publishing (Bloomington, IN, and Portland, OR); Quimby's (Chicago, IL); and Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse (Baltimore, MD).

For more information, contact:

William P. Tandy, Editor
Eight-Stone Press
P.O. Box 11064
Baltimore, MD 21212

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Strawberry Jam Canning Workshop (6/1/10)

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who came to the canning workshop and helped make it a success!

Eleven people came (a stunning jump from the four who came to the natural cleaning methods workshop last September, although that event was fun too!) It was nice to see a mix of friends from various foodmaking and collective groups, and also some new faces as well.

I was a little frantic at first because I only hulled about six pounds of strawberries before I ran out of time, but it actually worked out well to have people help with hulling the remaining berries as I put the finishing touches on the workshop setup and waited a few extra minutes for everyone to arrive. There's nothing like preparing food around a common table to bring people together, so it turned into a good ice-breaker activity.

For the first part of the workshop, we talked a little bit about the differences between water bath canning and pressure canning, and I set out a show and tell with some canning books and equipment. It was nice to use the USDA canning recipe as a jumping-off point to talk about canning terms like hot pack vs. raw pack. I kind of felt like we had to speed through the information session so we could get into the kitchen and start cooking!

The recipe turned out a little more like strawberry syrup than jam, but no one seemed to mind too much. I was a little worried about over-mashing the berries and burning the jam, so I think I erred on the side of under-cooking the jam and not mashing the berries enough.

After the workshop was over I remembered that I brought my thermometer with me and probably should just have checked the temperature of the liquid!

The end result was this syrup with a top layer of floating berries (as seen above.) Still plenty delicious though, and will make a great topping for yogurt, ice cream, or pancakes. I'm thinking about making strawberry lemonade or some kind of mixed drink with mine. Yum!

Can't wait to break out some strawberry lemonade at a barbeque in late August when strawberry season is long gone. Or give these as gift in December for a sweet winter-time treat that tastes like summer.

And seriously, thanks again to everyone who expressed interest in the workshop and who came. You all really boosted my confidence and I hope to have a pickle workshop soon!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Very Berry Memorial Day Weekend

Part of this weekend's adventures included a LOT of berry picking. It's the season for it, so look around you.. even in the city there are berries everywhere!

These berries are often called serviceberries, although there are a lot of similar varieties with many names (juneberries, saskatoon berries, and more...) According to the Herring Run website for their annual berry festival, serviceberry is native to the area.

They look and taste a lot like blueberries! Or maybe a blueberry-cranberry mix. I can't believe I had never heard of them until recently. I'm guessing they have a lot of antioxidants since they have the same deep purple color as blueberries or wine.

I found a bunch in the city on Monday and made a delicious crisp for a Memorial Day barbeque. After spending the morning in a hot open field sorting out good strawberries from moldy ones, I have to say that the serviceberries were a lot more pleasant to pick. Plus they were free!

We spent some time at the barbeque talking about the varieties of berry desserts: pie has a crust, cobblers have a battered top crust, buckles have a battered lower crust that the berries bake into, and crisps have a dry crunchy topping. In case you were wondering!

The recipe for the crisp came from one of the Moosewood cookbooks. The secret to getting that gooey berry interior: toss a teaspoon or two of cornstarch along with the berries and sugar.

A nearby mulberry tree was also very ripe.

Since the berries were a little out of reach, we set a tarp under the tree and shook it so the ripe berries fell down. Not quite enough for jam or wine, but enough for a yummy bowl to share. Sometimes mulberries can be bland, but these were happily nice and sweet.

Some of us brought up the question of foraged food safety, but if there was any lead or anything like that in the soil, most often lead stays in the plant, it doesn't come into the fruit (or so I have been told).

Also, I was eating the fruit with chemists and they weren't really concerned about the potential trace amounts of chemicals. We're likely exposed to many more things on a daily basis. I rinsed the fruit, and that was that!

After picking 13 lbs. of strawberries for tonight's canning workshop, Monday was definitely a berry filled day!

I thought a lot about the energy efficiency of pick-your-own farms while picking the strawberries. On the one hand, I'm supporting a local farmer, which ensures that food doesn't have to travel as far. On the other hand, there are a lot of individual cars are driving to the fields, and many berries don't get picked because people are there more for fun than for harvesting crops. So many variable to living sustainably!

I rationalized my driving to the farm with the fact that I'm getting berries for the group of people coming to the canning workshop tonight, and it's for the larger purpose for retaining our food preservation skills.

And now I've got to rest and prepare for the workshop tonight! See all the folks who RSVP'd there!
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