Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Farm Together Now

A book event at 2640 about urban farming, with a mention of Baltimore's own Participation Park?!

See you all next Wednesday at 2640.

Wednesday Jan 5, 7PM : Daniel Tucker presents Farm Together Now

Farm Together Now meets with people across the country who are challenging the conventions of industrialized farming and exclusive green economies.

This part-travelogue, part-oral history, part-creative exploration of food politics will introduce readers to twenty groups working in agriculture and sustainable food production in the U.S. Throughout 2009 the authors visited twenty farms from coast to coast, talking to farmers about their engagement in sustainable food production, public policy and community organizing efforts.

Interviews and photo essays with each farm/garden/project illustrate the inspiring histories, unique characters and everyday struggles of life on these farms. It is through sharing diverse voices from the contemporary farm that this book will inspire and cultivate a new wave of agrarians.

Half of the author’s profits will be put into a fund to encourage like-minded documentary projects.

Here's the book trailer:

Winter Spice

Hello, dear readers! I hope everyone has been having a wonderful holiday season so far.

What goes on here at BaltimoreDIY in the winter months? If the last week has been any indication, the answer is spice, spice, spice.

There's no need to drop $5 per tiny jar at the supermarket. Punjab Market in Waverly sells huge bags of all the spices you'll need for a fraction of the cost. Whether I'm adding fennel and coriander to a pot of beans, endlessly crushing black pepper, or decorating homemade pickles with whole mustard seeds, my spices come from Punjab.

Pictured above is a bulk chai tea mix I made myself. Here's a list of the ingredients:

- Black peppercorns
- Whole coriander seeds
- Cinnamon sticks
- Black cardamom pods

Boil the seeds in a pot for 2-3 minutes, then let steep for another ten. Your house will smell divine! Strain and drink plain, or add a little condensed milk to sweeten.

Gingerbread cookies were another must-make item this winter. I came across a recipe for "Soft Ginger-Molasses Cookies" on the King Arthur Flour website that reaffirmed my love for that great company.

To tell you the truth, I was thinking about these cookies as far back as July, when Mill Valley was selling plums for $2 a pint. I canned up a bunch of Ginger-Plum jam with future dreams of thumbprint cookies dancing in my head.

A photo of the Gingerbread-Plum Cookies:

In addition to molasses, the recipe called for a homemade ginger syrup. The recipe called for boiling four cups of chopped ginger, but that was a little pricey for me so I only  made a quarter of that amount. The syrup makes an amazing addition to tea as well!

The pre-baked cookies after they have been rolled in natural sugar and decorated with a dollop of jam:


Also, in case anyone is curious about the fate of our venison the most recent recipe was a risotto with peas, with the venison stock as a base. The chai spice tea was the beverage, of course!

What are some of your favorite ways to spice up the winter?

Monday, December 20, 2010

December 2010 Weekend Update

A peek at what the Remington garden is looking like at this time of the year. I think our hose must have frozen and exploded at some point, because everything around the water faucet was covered in icicles. Darn.

One of the garden plot owners mulched with straw. I think they may have planted onions or garlic. I was not so proactive and didn't mulch. I think it just means that the ground will stay cool a bit longer in spring, but I'm wondering if I get some row covers, the ground may heat up more quickly.

Speaking of frozen ground, I grabbed the last three carrots out of the soil. Next year maybe I will grow lots more carrots and start a root cellar! Add that on to the list of projects I want to do.

Remember just a few weeks ago when I posted a few photos of indoor plant propagation? We've got roots! I planted the above plant in soil, and you can see the beginnings of the spider plant roots below. So easy!


I roasted the bones for 40 minutes at 400 degrees to get them nice and browned.

Then I added about three small onions, three small carrots, two bay leaves, and a handful of black peppercorns. Many of the recipes I read recommend that you add the vegetables and salt during the last hour or so of cooking, not before.

At the end of the cooking time, I also added Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and some sea salt. Can I get some props for the fact that I set my alarm to strain and cool the stock at 1 a.m.?

Everything is now cooling out on the back porch. The deer fat congealed by morning and needs to be strained off. It's a very waxy texture and isn't much good for anything. But the stock sure looks great!

I'm hoping to make some French onion soup with the stock and sourdough croutons as part of a Winter Solstice dinner. Some nettle tea as a beverage and ginger cookies with plum jam are also potentials for the menu.

Anyone have any exciting lunar eclipse or solstice plans?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mapping Urban Green Spaces with GPS

I have to admit, my recent acquisition of a Droid phone has made me feel a little frivolous. Happily,  Baltimore Green Space organized a program that put my new technology to good use.

Last Saturday my friend Geoff Stack  and I went on a treasure hunt of sorts around West Baltimore, taking photos of various green sites and mapping them with GPS.  Thanks to Geoff for being such a great team partner! 

In case you didn't already know, Baltimore City has lots of abandoned spaces. The city wants to begin selling off those unused spaces. Baltimore Green Space is trying to map all of the "abandoned" spaces that are currently being used as a green space. Community gardens, rain gardens, horseshoe pits, open parks, container planters, and more all qualify.

The city is also interested in protecting these community spaces, since they often provide community stability (I know that the Remington garden has been a fabulous improvement over the empty lot it replaced.)  But they just don't have the people-power to make a record of what's going on in each empty lot. So it's up to Baltimore's citizens to track how the empty lots are being used.

Here I am at one of the parks off Route 40:

Geoff and I first went to the Thomas Jefferson Elementary School and took photos of various bird, butterfly, and rain gardens.

 They had a pretty sweet playground!

(This pole was actually flexible and waved up and down as you walked across- whoa! Slippery iron. It's nice to see that playgrounds aren't too milquetoast these days!)

At the next park, there was a couple sitting down on one of the benches, even though it was pretty chilly outside. Does anyone know what these weird fruits are?

 Then we went to a church that had a small garden out back. There was also a small grassy field that looked like it served as a meditation area sometimes. The wooden cross came out rather eerie looking though...

Then we went to the Samaritan Women's center to see their farm operation. The garden operates as part of a recovery program for women. Click on the link if you are interested in volunteering or learning more about their program.

High tunnels and chickens!

Then we went to a strip of plants that had been put in a grassy strip in a residential community. Geoff thought that it ran alongside an area where a small rail line used to be. Sigh. Trains are another BaltimoreDIY post altogether... Anyway, it was nice to see some botanical diversity added to this wooded area.

 The Samaritan Women caretakers event tipped us off to two nearby spaces that weren't on our map locations.

This mural in the Irvington neighborhood of West Baltimore was really nice. It looked like the garden was no longer in use, but the mural and sign still kept the space alive.

Around the corner we found a somewhat large community garden in an empty lot. The greens aren't looking so happy since it's past first frost. But mission accomplished on our part for finding a new green space to preserve!

Thanks, technology!

And don't forget, you can recycle your cell phone to re-use all of its valuable metals instead of just throwing it away (or sending it to China for someone to strip it of the metals and then burn the rest.) I noticed yesterday that the Target in Mondawmin Mall has a bin in the front of the store for used cell phones and MP3 players. Yay!

Geoff even took me back into the city with a small tour past a forgotten Crab Alley near Pratt and Monroe St. I had never even heard of it before, and although I wouldn't stroll around by myself, I was really glad I got a peek at a forgotten destination point of Baltimore.

I know it's been quiet on BaltimoreDIY lately, I hope this photo and link packed post makes up for it!

Stay warm, everyone.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Milk & Honey

Today I decided to use some of my Hanukkah money to treat myself to lunch at Baltimore's newest good-foods cafe, Milk & Honey.

Yum! If I was hosting a holiday get-together, Milk & Honey would be a great place to start. The cheese display had me dreaming of hosting a raclette party, with creamy cheese melted and scraped onto an assortment of meat, potatoes, and other veggies. Good thing they had potatoes and cured meats in the deli!

There are deli sandwiches and a coffee bar too.I was tempted to order the panini with apple, manchego cheese, and fig spread but damn if that DIY bug in my brain didn't say, "Hey, don't you have all those ingredients at home?" Sigh. Sometimes my make-it-yourself obsession makes me do weird things. That sandwich does sound awesome though.

Instead I purchased a few fancy items that I can't make and normally wouldn't buy myself. I've never been to another market in Baltimore that sells homemade candies- there were some caramels at the register that were calling my  name.  With just enough saltiness to cut through the buttery sweetness, it was a perfect treat for the cold walk back to work.

The yummy caramel and a super bangin' Humboldt Fog cheese that was both creamy and crumbly, with some bleu cheese flavor mixed in. Doesn't that cafe look nice!
And I was happy to see some honey for sale from Five Seeds Farm. Come to think of it, I should have bought some to make honey whole wheat sourdough...

Other Baltimore goods included prepared deli foods from Blacksauce Kitchen, makers of one of the biggest, fluffiest, flakiest biscuits I've ever had the honor of inhaling one morning at the Waverly Farmer's Market. Plus Taharka Bros. ice cream was in the freezer! With flavors like Honey Graham and Salted Caramel, I had to hold back from buying an entire pint for lunch. I'll be back once I have time to share with friends!

Urbanite posted an article if you want to read more about Milk & Honey.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Baltimore Foodmakers Venison Workshop

Here is a quick video of Saturday's venison workshop!

It was a little chilly outside, but there was warm cider, a warm bucket of water for washing the blood off our hands, and lots of friends. Chicken-Man and I even met someone with experience tanning deer hides who happily had a fleshing knife in his truck that he lent us to use on the hide hanging out in the cold weather on our back porch. Thanks, friend.

It was fun hanging out with everyone and sharing all parts of the deer. Everyone who wanted got hands on experience with a knife, and everything from the deer skull to the ribs got taken by someone (even if it was just the fatty bits and ribs that someone wanted to feed to the wild foxes on their property, or the skull for making a flower pot.)

DC-based forager Paula Smith was a force of nature who is clearly experienced in processing wild game. She talked about her personal decision to not eating supermarket meat because of the conditions in which they are raised and processed. You can hear some of her thoughts in the clip above.

In the video she talks about how people eat meat without ever really thinking about what's in those little plastic packages. The audio is a little rough because of the wind, but she is explaining how meat becomes more tender and flavorful after it is hung for at least a week.

When you hang meat, it loses water weight due to evaporation. Since grocery stores sell meat by weight, that means they are losing money, which is why some meats have "water-added" on the packaging. She also said that animals are sometimes injected with a chemical before slaughtering to tenderize the meat, instead of going through the time-consuming dry aging process.

In any case, the workshop was a lot of fun. And it looks like the venison gods had more gifts to give, because as we were leaving the workshop we saw a deer that had been struck by the side of the road. The foodmakers didn't let that go to waste of course, and the deer wasn't left to rot.

A few more photos of the workshop:

Everyone huddling up outside:

Elisa getting very hands-on!

Paula explaining that you want to wrap the meat in plastic wrap and then newspaper to avoid freezer burn:

The deer:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Early December Projects: Photos!

Hi Everyone!

Thought I would post about various BaltimoreDIY projects that went down this weekend. I've got a short video and a lot of photos of Saturday's venison workshop to be posted later, but for now here is a fun update post about some of the smaller day-to-day projects.

Kneading sourdough bread for Saturday's potluck and morning breakfasts:

Breadmaking is one of those projects that seems like a pain at first, but once it becomes incorporated into your daily schedule, it's relatively easy to maintain.

For daily maintenance, usually I feed the sourdough starter in the morning as I make breakfast. Baking a loaf does require some forethought, but if you mix up a big batch of dough it will keep in the fridge for about a week which cuts down on a lot of the prep time. King Arthur Flour is the best resource if you want to know more!

The finished bread is at the top of the page. Next time I'll remember to slash the loaves so they rise more.

Chickens making quick work of some old apples.

Finally got a photo of one of the Araucanas.

Eggs. Miso paste + rice + greens + egg = one of my favorite cold weather soups of all time. I will eat it for breakfast!

And I realized that I haven't posted a photo of the rabbits on BaltimoreDIY!

I haven't quite decided my position on the rabbits yet. These are American Chinchilla rabbits, and I am excited to own a heritage breed of an animal. Also, rabbit meat is one of the healthiest and most efficient types of meat you can raise. Plus, rabbit poop makes some amazing compost.

But as Pluck and Feather writes, raising backyard livestock isn't for the faint of heart. You have to be o.k. with getting them to mate, raising the kits, and then eating them.

Having grown up vegetarian, I don't feel that meat is so important for my diet. Not so important that I need to eat rabbit meat. But on the other hand, many cultures eat rabbit, and I like the idea of raising meat for food security purposes. For now the rabbits are not mating, so I don't need to make that moral decision. Any input from other homesteaders on this issue?

Right now the rabbits are just big fluffy compost machines. Here is Ethel looking nervous because I'm looming with a camera:

I finally got a somewhat cheerier shot of Frank:

Chicken Man and I attempted to get the rabbits to mate on Saturday, but Ethel still needs more coaxing. It was kind of sweet seeing Frank try to nibble on her ears though.

Now that it's too cold to garden, I do have a small indoor plant project. Our neighbors have a lovely assortment of various house plants, and many of those are incredibly easy to propagate.

Just snip off a piece several inches long, strip off most of the leaves except at the top, and place in a glass of water. Change the water every few days or so. Roots will eventually sprout, and then you can put in a pot of soil!

You can see my earlier Aloe Propagation post for more information. Do friends or family have lots of potted plants for seasonal decorations or gifts? Once the plants die, hang on to the potting soil for projects like this. Worm compost comes in handy too. Don't throw away potting soil!

After the deer butchering workshop on Saturday, I helped out at 2640 for Holiday Heap. So many great crafts!

Funds from the raffle basket pictured above went to Heart's Place, the shelter located at 2640.

On Saturday night, Chicken Man slow cooked his venison ribs.

They slow-cooked in the oven for about 15 hours or so at 200 degrees. We threw in onions, potatoes, carrots, green peppers and jalapenos (the last three ingredients were homegrown). Plus Chicken Man's dark spicy beer came in handy again as a wonderful marinade, mixed with a cup of apple cider vinegar.


The finished ribs:

So tender! I've never had saurbraten but it smelled like what I think that would taste like. I've got a small snack of it for lunch today, along with a butternut squash pie from the freezer.

Well, I think that's enough of a photo blast for now. Stay tuned for a post about the deer workshop.And I'd love to hear from you all what sorts of DIY projects you are up to at this time of year!
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