Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bouza!


As I mentioned in Monday's post, the May 2010 Baltimore Foodmakers potluck theme was HOMEBREW.

Since I recently purchased Sandor Ellix Katz's foodmaking must-have text "Wild Fermentation," I decided I definitely had to try one of the projects from his book.

There are recipes for honey wine, fruit wines, even fermented rice wines and more. Since I wanted something quick and am currently enchanted with my sourdough starter, I decided to attempt (drumroll please...)

Bouza! An ancient Egyptian form of beer.

Here it is looking rather murky as the wheat ferments in a few gallons of water.



Not just any old wheat though, this is wheat that has gone through a number of different stages.

It starts out with just wheat berries and sourdough starter. Some of the wheat berries are sprouted, then roasted dry in an oven on low heat. I learned that's what malting is! Yay, beer.

Here I am grinding up both the malted wheat berries and regular wheat berries.

p.s. Thanks for letting me use your food mill Steve! Although their name might indicate hilarity, I seriously recommend checking out The Wild Bonerz new take on bluegrass. They are even better in person. Steve's got the sideburns.

You use the freshly ground whole wheat flour to make a dense loaf of sourdough bread that ferments for a few days at room temperature. Partially bake the loaf of bread, let it cool, then break it up into pieces and dump the whole thing in a few gallons of water.

I won't give away the whole recipe since you'll have to get Sandor's book for that, but I promise his book is chock full of other fantastic foods, beverages, and snacks!


So was it good?!

Not really. After fermenting for a few days, the bouza tasted mainly like I was drinking sourdough juice. Mmmm. And I don't think it was alcoholic enough to be worth it.

Since my first taste test before the potluck was underwhelming, I decided to experiment a little. I added about a quarter cup of honey to one batch, and honey + fennel + coriander to the third batch.

The spiced honey version was actually pretty drinkable. But I wouldn't say I would try this again. Fun times though! And all I used was wheat and water.

UPDATE: After the potluck on Sunday, I left a half filled jar of the spiced honey bouza sitting in my kitchen. Last night, Thursday, I opened up the jar to dump it out and found that the bouza was fizzing! So I filtered it and drank it. Yum! It was sweet from the honey and beer-y from the wheat, with an alcoholic kick about equal to beer. Adding honey and spices was a great idea. Perhaps I will end up making this again after all! In any case, it's pretty cool knowing that as long I have wheat and keep my sourdough starter alive, I have beer.

I had the feeling the bouza might turn out kind of crazy, so I made a side project from Wild Fermentation just in case.

It's a colonial-era drink called shrub.

Shrubs are kind of a precursor to soda, where you soak fruit in vinegar and then sweeten it to make syrup. The syrup is added to water for a refreshing summertime tonic.



I used an unfiltered, organic apple cider vinegar since we were going to be drinking it straight. It's crazy easy- all I did was soak a bunch of unsulphered apricots in the vinegar for two weeks.

(Most of the recipes I've found online have you soak the fruit in vinegar for a shorter time and then cook it over high heat, but I lean towards Sandor's policy that not cooking the liquid retains more of it's nutritional benefits.)

Add about a quarter cup of honey to it (adding a little hot water to the honey makes it easier to dissolve into the liquid) to balance out the sourness of the vinegar. Pour a few tablespoons into a glass of soda water, and you've got a really unusual summertime drink!

Admittedly, I do like very sour things, but apple cider is actually incredibly good for you. Just google "apple cider benefits" and you will find all sorts of claims from weight loss, lower cholesterol, even skin and hair care. I really liked drinking it after eating a ton of greasy food since it helped me digest.

Maybe this year I will experiment with making my own cider from some Maryland apples. Maybe.

Have you experimented with making shrubs or other types of alternative beverages?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Support Urban Farmers




On Monday I mentioned volunteering with Parks & People at a plant giveaway at Gilmore Homes in West Baltimore.

It was a really fun event! The kids were really excited and were great helpers digging holes, spreading mulch, and putting plants in the ground. Just check out these young ladies with the shovel! We found a lot of potato bugs and slugs too. I don't work with kids very much, but these little ones put a definite grin on my face.



Although I guess I look a little confused here getting ready for the giveaway! Good thing Sarah Krones knows what she's doing :)


Special thanks to the supervisors of the housing units who kept making sure we had enough water to drink and breakfast to eat and organized everything to make the event run smoothly.

There was a good turnout and a bunch of trees were put into planters that previously held bare dirt. Parks and People also gave away a lot of native plants and vegetable seedlings in addition to the trees that were put in.

Plants, pots, tools, and especially soil can get expensive and are a real barrier to spreading greenery across Baltimore. Many people are interested in gardening and growing things but might not have the resources to do so. I was really proud to help out Parks and People make it easier for the many people excited about growing things at Gilmore Homes.

Seedlings lined up and ready to go:


There was a lot of excitement putting in some green and living things in an area of the city where there aren't too many plants. It was nice to come together, get dirty, play a little, and talk about making things grow and thrive!

Here is Sara Krones giving a brief how-to on tree planting before everyone gets to work:


One of the new trees in the planter with Black-Eyed Susans at the corners:


Thank you to everyone at Gilmore Homes who took part in the planting and worked hard getting dirty and getting plants in the ground! It was lovely meeting you all and I would love there to be more events around the city like this one.

***

Speaking of spreading agriculture to urban areas that are struggling economically...

The deadline for purchasing a scholarship ticket to the Sowing Seeds conference on June 18th has been extended!

Just click on the link to get more information. I am aware that many people interested in this scholarship might not be reading this blog, so please spread the word to any people or organizations you think might be interested.

And if you are interested in sponsoring someone who might want a scholarship ticket, that information at this link also:

http://www.sowingseedshereandnow.com/buy-tickets/

Thank you! And see you at the conference on June 18th!

***

Pile of Craft!


Charm City Craft Mafia presents the 4th annual Pile Of Craft!

A one-of-a-kind craft fair for Baltimore, featuring 40+ of the country's best handmade crafters selling their own housewares, stationery, screenprinted & sewn apparel, jewelry, handbags, hats, knit items, woven scarves, plush toys, ceramics, comic books, prints, paintings and more!

Support handmade and local artists and meet them in person!

In addition to having the area's most unique shopping, Pile Of Craft will also feature DIY printmaking demonstrations from Baltimore's brand new community printmaking facility: Baltimore Print Studios;

a raffle basket FULL of donated items from Craft Mafia vendors to benefit local non-profit library/learning resource/all-round-gem: Village Learning Place;

and tasty snacks and coffee from local earth-friendly coffee shop & bookstore Red Emma's!

Pile of Craft is absolutely free to attend and open to all ages.

June 26th 10-5pm
2640 St. Paul Street
Baltimore, MD 21218

The Charm City Craft Mafia is an organization that promotes independent artists, designers, craftspeople, and businesses in the Baltimore region. Our collective of artists is committed to educating the greater community through the sharing of our skills and knowledge. In this vein, we support the network of indie art and craft businesses in Baltimore, while celebrating the quirks of our charming city.

Check out our blog and come out to support us at our events! And feel free to email us at charmcitycraftmafia@gmail.com.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Skateboarding DIY


A break from my obsession with sustainable living through changing the way we eat and grow our food!

Thanks to my brother Elie for reminding me about another kind of DIY project.

Those of you who read the Baltimore City Paper may recognize Elie's name from last week's article about the skate park in Hampden. He was also involved with building the Pants Ramp at the 2008 Artscape (that's him skating the ramp in the above photo).

Today he sent me a link to a video about a DIY skatepark in Uganda, and it's really inspiring.

I spent a while trying to write this blog post but ended up deleting a lot because it all sounded kind of naive and sweet talking about community, etc. And really, the video says it best.

I'll just say that it's a powerful thing to see what passion, fun, and speed can do to bring people together.

You don't need a lot of money, just a common sense of purpose.

http://www.thrashermagazine.com/articles/trash/skate-uganda/

Monday, May 24, 2010

Planting in the Projects, Homebrew, Foodmakers, Urban Chickens, and More!

Update on this weekend's adventures!

There is just too much to say about each event, so hopefully I will get a chance to post more photos and details over the course of the week. For now here is a basic overview of the greening, making, and doing things fun!

(As always, don't forget you can click on a photo to enlarge it)

May 21-23 in BaltimoreDIY included:

A Parks and People plant giveaway at the Gilmore Homes in West Baltimore...




The May 2010 Baltimore Foodmakers Potluck. This month's theme was homebrew...




A trip to Northern Virginia with a very special friend of mine to pick up some chickens for his coop...


The ChiliBrew homebrew and chili fundraiser for Velocipede and the Baltimore Free School...


Thanks goodness it rained so I didn't have to water the garden! I stopped by after ChiliBrew for just a second because it's pea season and I wanted some veggies for dinner that night...


It was great to see all my fellow foodmakers, gardeners, homebrewers, and people who just plain like to get out, do projects, create communities, and make the world into a more exciting, beautiful, and hopefully greener place to live.

*****

Also, if you RSVP'd for the June 1st Strawberry Jam canning class, you are in! I will see you at 7 p.m. at 2640 St. Paul. The class is now full!

Thanks to everyone who RSVP'd, and if this goes successfully hopefully I can have another workshop or two this summer.

*****

Friday, May 21, 2010

Baby Carrots! (and how to eat their greens)


We have a fellow gardener in the Remington Community Garden named Muhammed. He is from Pakistan, farms fun and exciting crops like taro root and peanuts, grows cilantro EVERYWHERE in Remington, and is often my go-to guy when I need advice.

One of Muhammad's constant admonitions is, "Too close! Too close!" Eager to cram as many plants as possible in our garden plots and make everything look as lush as possible, many of us let our crops grow mere inches away from each other.

I finally learned my lesson after checking on my Chinese Red Meat Radishes only to find that the leaves were gigantic, but there was almost no radish at the bottom.

I asked Muhammad what happened, and you can guess his advice.

So I thinned out the radish greens and made them into a stir-fry with tofu. There are still more, so perhaps kimchi is next. I'm learning that eating the thinnings from the garden is almost as much fun as eating the vegetables themselves.

Yesterday I decided the carrots needed a lot of thinning too. And was pleasantly excited to realize that meant I got to eat baby carrots!

Delicate, sweet, and crunchy. Too bad these are only available for a few brief weeks out of the year, unlike those fat, wet little carrots available in giant sacks year round.

But what to do with the many carrot greens with almost no carrot at the bottom?

I tasted a little of the greens and they tasted just like parsley. I think they might be in the same family? So, I decided to treat the greens like parsley and mixed them in with a chickpea salad.

Carrot Top & Chickpea Salad

Two cans chickpeas (or be thrifty and soak your own!)
Medium white or red onion
Chopped carrot tops (use as many as you like)

Olive oil (1/4 c)
Rice Vinegar (2 or 3 tblsp)
salt, pepper, Old Bay (or any spices you prefer)


Chop greens and onion. Mix ingredients together. A delicious, cheap, filling, and extremely healthy meal in just a few minutes.

If you don't grow your own carrots, perhaps your local farmer's market will have some with the greens. It's like getting two vegetables for the price of one.

I still have a lot more carrot greens. Maybe pesto?

Ooh, after a quick Google search I found a discussion about eating carrot greens on CHOWHOUND!

Please be aware that there have been some studies showing carrot greens to have some mild toxicity.

This New York Times article about eating tomato leaves sheds a lot of interesting light on eating the leaves of vegetable plants and plant toxicity.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What is your garden style?


Posted photos of different Remington garden plots at HOMEGROWNdotORG!

Progressive Community Grants


This open letter landed in my email inbox this morning. Come on out to support progressive community grants on June 12:

Dear Friends,

We are excited to announce new directions for Research Associates Foundation, with new opportunities for Baltimore’s progressive community. As caring Baltimoreans, you are cordially invited—and very much needed—to join us!

In 1982 a group of local activists founded the Research Associates Foundation (RAF). For many years RAF owned and operated the Progressive Action Center (PAC) on Gorsuch Avenue in Baltimore where numerous progressive groups, such as the Workers Action Press, the Alternative Press Center, and Baltimore Action for Justice in the Americas (BAJA), had headquarters and held activities. During those years the PAC was a significant center for events, organization and information related to anti-racist and anti-imperialist movements, along with women’s, LGBTQ, and workers’ rights groups and campaigns.

In 2009 RAF began a new phase of activism: It sold the PAC and will now dedicate itself to providing small grants to support progressive educational and transformative projects in the Baltimore community. Activists from the ‘60s to the twenty-first century are uniting to continue the ever necessary tasks of building a peaceful and just society.

On June 12, 2010 the RAF is holding a Launch Party featuring the first four awards in this new phase of its operation as a progressive community foundation.

The very first of these awards is designated as the Chester L. and Mary Ann Wickwire Award for Peace and Social Justice, in honor of these two indefatigable activists and founding members of the original Research Associates collective. That award will be given to the Baltimore Algebra Project to cover expenses for these young people to attend the U.S. Social Forum (USSF) June 22–26 in Detroit. The theme of the USSF is “Another World is Possible, Another U.S. is Necessary.” We could not agree more.

The other three awards will be announced during the June 12 celebration. We strongly encourage you to attend our celebration which will be held from 5–7 pm at The 2640 Project, at 2640 St. Paul Street (Saint John's Church). We hope to see you then.

With best wishes, and looking forward to seeing you on June 12,

The Research Associates Foundation Board
(Howard Ehrlich, Ryan Harvey, David Kandel, Kate Khatib, Barbara Larcom, Mike McGuire, Kostis Papadantonakis, Dean Pappas, Fred Pincus, & Jack Sinnigen)


P.S. At http://www.rafbaltimore.org you may learn about the history of the RAF, its members and principles, the grant application guidelines and ways to contribute money and time to the RAF. Every generation has its particular role and place in the building of progressive movements. Please join us. The need is, indeed, urgent.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sowing Seeds at the CGRN Giveaway Day

Special thanks to Tanvi from Sowing Seeds for sending along these photos of the Community Greening Resource Network (CGRN) Giveaway Day last Saturday!

CGRN is really great organization under the Parks & People umbrella, and a fantastic resource for all gardeners across the city. A fellow Remington gardener and I scored a ton of seedlings, some seed packets (daikon, corn, and tatsoi), plus mulch and some coconut coir. So many seedlings!

The cost of CGRN membership is only $5 for individual gardeners, and there are a lot of benefits like giveaway days, volunteer assistance, or workshops. Community gardens and school gardens are also part of the network.

See if you can spot me in my bright yellow tank top-






Thanks Tanvi! And Speaking of Sowing Seeds, don't forget that you can still buy tickets for the June 18th conference.

The event is going to be close by at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, and Will Allen is the keynote speaker. So many local organizations are getting involved, and I'm really excited to see everyone at the same event.

http://www.sowingseedshereandnow.com/buy-tickets/


Scholarship tickets are available if needed as well. Or if you want to support some budding urban gardeners you can also purchase a Micro-Sponsorship ticket.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Remington Tree Planting


You all have heard me talk about the Remington community garden a lot since my very first garden plot is there this year. But the urban agriculture community in the neighborhood extends way beyond the garden at 28th and Fox St.

Neighbors excited to expand the greenery in the city and grow food crops got together this past weekend to plant fruit trees and blueberry bushes outside of the 7-11. So much enthusiasm was nice to see.

One concern for the many urban agriculture projects springing up is the ability to sustain them. Fruit trees need to be pruned, mulched, watered, and protected against pests. It's a lot like getting a puppy from the pound- they're cute and fun, but they sure require a lot of work!

I hear the Remington folks have set up a rotational schedule to figure out how to keep the trees maintained. This is a great idea to responsibly maintain a collectively owned garden. Now I've just got to ask around and find out who gets to eat the fruit!

Serviceberries (or Juneberries) were planted along with blueberry bushes, and I think some hazelnut.

Herring Run has a fun Berry Festival on July 10th if you'd like to taste serviceberries or other local fruit.

A great map of the orchard plan:


So many motivated and helpful gardeners! New neighbors even helped a friend of mine move his seedlings several blocks away into a guerrilla planter near an area where other fruit trees are planted.

As we built and set up the planter, many neighbors engaged in the favorite Baltimore past-time of sitting on the porch watched our work. I keep wondering if all of these gardens springing up will inspire other neighbors to start a garden on their own, or if they will just see it as a some project that other people are doing.

I have been thinking for a long time about how to expand participation in urban agriculture beyond the close knit group of people of a similar social circle. Many neighbors in Remington walk by the garden and are appreciative, and I'd love to come up with a way to let more people know that they can get involved in gardening, composting, and sustainable living too.

There are a ton of resources in the city like Parks & People, so the help and advice are out there. It's a matter of getting people to see gardening as a project that they can start themselves, instead of just watching other people do it. But how to do that effectively?

I'd love to hear your thoughts about expanding the urban ag community across social and economic groups!

I actually didn't stay long at the tree planting because I needed to go over to my garden to spend a few hours thinning the radishes and kale and ripping off all of the diseased leaves on my beets (it's not a terrible illness I don't think, but I just want to make sure it doesn't spread.)

Another gardening friend of mine told me this might be leaf miners, and that the best thing to do is to tear off any leaves that look blighted. There isn't really any other way to treat the pests, and the damage is mainly cosmetic, although it can stunt the beets.

Any other opinions?

One other fun garden project from this weekend:

Discovering that bok choy sends out edible seed pods!

After my baby bok choy bolted and sent out flowers, I left a few of the biggest plants to harvest their seeds for next year. I actually had no idea how the seeds would appear, and was pleasantly surprised to see the cool looking pods.

I ripped out some of the smaller flowering plants and was curious to see how the pods would taste. They are similar to miniature peas in texture and taste, kind of like a pea-broccoli mix.

I can imagine steaming these and using them as a garnish or detail for a really classy Asian meal. Woodberry Kitchen, here I come!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Strawberry Jam Canning Workshop


berries!, originally uploaded by baltimoreDIY.


Special Announcement! Yours truly will be hosting my very first canning workshop!

I must admit, I am insanely nervous for this event as I am a newbie canner (and haven't even used pectin before!) But every time I tell people about my strawberry jam or watermelon rind pickles, everyone says they would love to learn how to can. So I finally decided it's time to spread the canning love.

I love canning because it's the only way to have local, sustainably grown produce all winter long. No more shipping fresh vegetables from all over the globe. Plus canned food can be stored right in your cupboard instead of the refrigerator. Less energy used = less oil we need!

Here's a photo series of the first time I canned strawberries last year.

Now that it's mid-May and the days are growing warmer, the asparagus and sorrel have come and gone.

Up next on the seasonal menu: peas and strawberries!

I decided to use strawberries for my first canning workshop since they are an acidic fruit, which means you can them with sugar in a pot of boiling water. Non-acidic food like vegetables, soup, meat, etc. needs to be canned in a pressure canner. You'll have to come to the workshop if you want to know more details!

I think I'm going to cap the class at 10 people so I don't get overwhelmed. That's a lot of strawberries to purchase up front! Everyone in the class will get to go home with a least one half-pint of homemade local strawberry jam.

Strawberry Jam Canning Workshop
2640 St. Paul
June 1st
7-9 p.m.
Cost of the class: $20

Please RSVP by posting a comment on the blog! Include "RSVP" in your comment line.


For a list of farms to pick-your-own strawberries: http://www.pickyourown.org/MD.htm/

If all goes well I hope to have more canning and other workshop classes in the future. And of course with your new-found canning knowledge, you'll be able to start canning pickles and preserves all summer long!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Steam! All Natural Spring Cleaning


Last Saturday was a day for deep cleaning my apartment. It felt great to get rid of a bunch of unused items, re-organize, throw away, and sanitize everything. Getting ready for a new season!

You may be curious why I have two pots stacked on top of each other in this weird way, and what that has to do with all-natural cleaning.

I needed to get my pots and pans sterilized. The top stock pot was borrowed from a friend, and I wanted to make sure it was really clean before I gave it back to her. As for the rest of my pots: stupid city mice.

One way that I sterilize my pots is to boil water in the pot, then wipe it down with grain alcohol. But in this case, I was already doing a ton of dishes and other cleaning, and I didn't really feel like scrubbing and boiling all of my kitchen pots. So how to easily, cheaply, and naturally sterilize?

Steam!

Just fill up a stock pot about a quarter of the way with water and let it boil away.

Rather than scrub, I left the pots on top of the steam pot for about 15-20 minutes each. As I cleaned, I just let the steam do its work! A great way to feel like you are deep cleaning your pots and pans more than soap can, but without the use of bleach.

So how can you get started cleaning the all-natural way?

The recipe for my favorite homemade 409:

1/3 spray bottle white vinegar
2/3 spray bottle water
20 drops tea tree essential oil
20 drops lavender essential oil

For extra strength anti-mouse poop power, I add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of grain alcohol to the mix.

For grease cutting power, add in about a tablespoon of ONE of the following all-natural, petroleum free soaps:
Ecover or other biodegradable dish soap
Dr. Bronner's castile soap
Soapberry liquid


And that's it! Clean and simple.

Last year's natural cleaning workshop at Red Clover Collective has recipes and more details on natural cleaning if you are interested.

What are some of your favorite tips?

If I really was homesteading it I'd probably start distilling my own grain alcohol and white vinegar using fallen fruit, old herbal tea grounds and more. But that's a project for another day!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Homebrew & Chili Cookoff : Velocipede/Free School Benefit



A homebrew and chili competition to benefit Baltimore's community bike shop and educational workshop space? I can't wait for this event!

See you at 2640 on May 23rd!

This charity homebrew competition and chili cookoff aims to bring together some folks who get a kick out of sticking it to that commercial product pipeline and living more locally, whether that means brewing, gardening, bike-building, crafts...

Even if you don't do anything of the sort, come have a sip and a bite and meet some people who do. Not only will it be delicious, but who knows, it might be the start of a wonderful new hobby!

Attendees will be offered the opportunity to judge chili and homebrew to award the titles of "Charmin' Chili Champion" and "Ruler of Brews" with their accompanying prizes, plus you'll leave toting a lovely commemorative glass. The proceeds will benefit two great community organizations that embody the DIY spirit: the Velocipede Bike Project and the Baltimore Free School.

Interested in competing? Visit the ChiliBrew's website below as soon as possible to fill out an entry form, read the rules, and/or contact the organizers.


$10-$20 sliding scale suggested donation

ChiliBrew - http://bmorecharmin.intuitwebsites.com/
Velocipede - http://www.velocipedebikeproject.org/
Free School - http://freeschool.redemmas.org/

text taken from the 2640 website
Image is from here

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Smoked Chicken Soup w/ Baby Kale & Black Beans: An Urban Chicken Adventure Recipe


So I've already mentioned my recent taste of an urban chicken on Monday's post. Feel free to click the link to see a photo of the chicken coop.

I mentioned in the earlier post that the chickens were too tough to eat due to the fact that they were egg-laying chickens, and were about six months past the usual age when chickens are slaughtered.

One of the chickens was smoked at a neighbor's house, which gave a great flavor to the bird but did nothing to improve the chewiness factor. So the chicken owner and I decided that stew was on the menu!



OMG, could you smell the smokiness. So yummy.

I have never cooked with anything smoked before and was a little unsure at first what to add to the soup. I started thinking of something with a kind of southern or southwestern theme. Dark leafy greens? Black beans? Chilis? Yes.

The fact that the kale in my garden is at a very tender baby state definitely enhanced my decision to do a kind of southern/southwestern-y style dish.


All I added to the chicken stock was an onion and a small cheesecloth bag full of black peppercorns, coriander seeds, and a chili pepper (in retrospect I would have used two or three chilis). Bring to a boil, then simmer for three hours or so!

You don't want to salt your broth until after its simmered because otherwise your salt content is going to be way out of whack as the broth evaporates.


After the broth was ready we salted to taste, then added the chopped up chicken (now tender!), the baby kale, and black beans (from The Beet!) I added a little bit of chili spice at the end to add some extra flavor.

I tried to get a photo of everything all happy in the jar but the black beans made it too dark to see what was in the broth.

Greasy, smoky, fatty, and with the nice beans and kale to balance out an all around yummy and very special meal.

Plus I got to ladle out the soup with my brand new ladle from Fairy Fest!

Hand-made from cherrywood. Sorry, I will try to track down the vendor info!

And now I've got to sign off... I've got stew to eat!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Real Food Farm!


(Thank you to local blogger Baltidome for the photo)

The Real Food Farm is one of Baltimore's most exciting programs linking employment, education, environment, and food security.

The program is part of Civic Works, so the goal is all about community building and helping train Baltimore's youth to work for and support a stronger and more beautiful city.

Urbanite Magazine wrote a really great article on the opening steps to build the farm last September 09. They listed a few bullet points about the goals of Real Food:

1. Improving Community Access to Organic, Wholesome and Real Food

2. Localizing Baltimore’s Food Consumption

3. Creation of New Green Jobs

4. Training Residents for Green Jobs

5. Promoting Education

6. Becoming Sustainable and Replicable


If you are interested in a more sustainable Baltimore, now is your chance to help out this amazing organization! Here's a sneak peak at an email that was recently sent out from RFF.

MARKETS:

THURSDAYS IN MAY
The Green School of Baltimore with Belair-Edison Neighborhoods, Inc
2800 Brendan Ave
Baltimore, MD
3:30-6pm (or sold out!)

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES:

Saturday, May 8 9am-2pm - RFF NEEDS your help! We continue our steady growth by breaking new ground and hauling loads of compost for the summer crops.

Saturday, May 23 9am-2pm - RFF will be building its new shaded gathering space - designed by REACH! high school students, and applying a nice coat of whitewash to keep the hoops cool all summer long.

Please rsvp to tbrown@civicworks.com and to inquire about regular volunteer positions available.

HOLD ON THOUGH, what's been going on at RFF all winter!?!? Here's a quick update:

Built HoopVillage - the educational first stage - was built with the Safe Healing Foundation in October 2009

Sold or donated over 1000 pounds of fresh produce to residents, schools, and restaurants

Established farm stands in the Coldstream Homestead Montebello and Belair-Edison neighborhoods, including locations at the Lake Clifton Campus and the Green School of Baltimore

Hosted over 300 students from 11 different schools and after school programs for in-school learning, after school programming and service-learning hours

Hosted over 1600 hours of volunteering from residents, students, urban farmers, and visiting groups

Started the RFF Orchard with 25 fruit trees (thanks to Tree Baltimore!)

Is home to two new bee hives (thanks to Bmore Honey!)


I'm so happy RFF is putting Baltimore at the forefront of the urban sustainability movement. What a great way to link a number of issues, and work on them all at once to create a better city. I can't wait to see how this project develops, and I know this model is spreading all over cities all across America!

By the way, if you're interested in learning more about urban agriculture, you can't do better than buying a ticket for the upcoming Sowing Seeds Conference on June 18th.

Monday, May 3, 2010

May 1st Weekend Update


Apologies for the crickets, dear readers. I decided to take a little break from the computer last week. Needed to refuel my batteries!

But never fear, even if I'm not posting about it there's always a fun project on tap. As you can see from the photo above, I harvested my second crop of spring vegetables from the garden.

Baby Bok Choy!

Here's a basic overview of last weekend in BaltimoreDIY:

Friday Night



Meeting for The Beet, Baltimore's newest bulk food buying club and food coop to be. We're still testing the website, but you can be our friend on Facebook!

My goal is to buy plenty of organic flour for bread baking (not only is bread delicious to eat, I've found it also makes a wonderful item to trade your friends for things like home-brewed beer, locally raised chickens, computer assistance, compost, etc.) Once day I'll try to figure out if we can get locally sourced flour.

I also want to get about two pounds of raisins and two pounds of peanuts since it makes a great whole-food snack and stores well so it makes a good emergency food item.

We have a lot of excess bulk dry goods available for people who aren't able to become members as well. I'll keep you all posted on when the pickups are going to happen.

Yay for Joe Squared having outdoor tables. Beer makes meetings silly but it was worth it!

Saturday



Hanging out with my friend Katie Red at the Spoutwood Fairie Festival! She posted some pretty photos here.

It was May 1st and Beltane, so we had to go! A perfect sunny day to lay about on a farm, see the parade of costumed revelers, eat treats, and look at beautiful ferns and other plants growing around the loveliest little stream. Loved listening to the Baltimore Mandolin Orchestra.

After we returned from the festival we came by the garden to do a little watering and harvesting. A nice end to a day of celebrating high spring!



You can see the baby bok choy was starting to get long and tall and send out flowers. That's called "bolting," and it's what happens when it gets too hot for a cool weather plant. Luckily bok choy still tastes nice and mild when it bolts, but I picked even the littlest plants since they were just going to go to flower. I let a few stay in the ground and will see if I can harvest some seeds for next year.

I spend Saturday evening relaxing from the day, washing bok choy and peeling a ton of parsnips on my front porch. So fun to people watch, have a brew, and get some delicious food ready for the week.

Sunday



The adventures aren't over yet!

Sunday was the day to clean the kitchens at 2640 St. Paul. Since we, the church members, and Heart's Place shelter all share the kitchen, it gets to be quite a jumble! Lot of intense cleaning, but fun to hang out with amazing people who volunteer their time to be part of a community. A nice way to spend an afternoon!

Then I headed out to pick up a load of hay from someone who used it for an art project. Kind of hilarious toting around five trashbags of hay in the back seat of my Toyota Corolla. Ah urban farming...

But wait, you ask. Why is there is photo of a chicken coop posted for Sunday?

Well, my DIY friends, I finally got to taste my very first Baltimore-raised chicken. This coop was built by hand by a special new friend of mine. I was quite impressed! The slaughter happened as I was cleaning the 2640 kitchen, but I did get to see it on video.

I'll spare you all any details, but here's a photo I took of the aftermath:


A neighbor smoked one of the birds, but it was kind of too tough to eat. These were egg-laying chickens, which don't have as much meat on them as birds designed specifically for eating. Also, chickens are usually eaten when they are four months old, and these chickens were one year old.

Of course, there are still ways to eat a tough chicken! Tough, older birds are traditionally used for stew meat, so the plan is to make a stock with the smoke-enhanced carcass. I've got a few thoughts for recipes rolling around in my head.

You can be sure I'll let you all know how it turns out!
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