Friday, January 28, 2011

Baltimore Food Co-op

I would be remiss if I didn't post about the latest update in Baltimore's local, cheap, healthy food news!

If you're a frequent reader of the blog, you know I shop often at Mill Valley. During the growing season, you can pick up your CSA veggies there any day from Thursday through Sunday, instead of having to go to the farmer's market on Saturday mornings. Plus they've got local meat and dairy, garden supplies, herbal potions, spices, dry goods, and more!

Last March I posted about the awesome Chinese Street Food Brunch hosted by Hanne Blank, and there are lot of photos of Mill Valley if you want to see more.

Although Mill Valley is a big change of pace if you're used to aisles and aisles of food at the supermarket, I've actually come to prefer a place where you can purchase just the simple building blocks of a good meal: veggies + protein + pantry items (and maybe some bread, unless you happen to bake your own of course!)

Of course, you do have to enjoy cooking if you're buying mainly unprocessed food. But for those of us who want to eat simply, be a part of a good-food community, and support small farmers and business owners, shopping at Mill Valley is worth it.

So what's the big news? Mill Valley is becoming a food co-op!

Instead of the co-op method of volunteer hours keeping costs low, BFC members will pay a one-time $100 buy-in fee to support the business, with a small yearly renewal fee after that.

Members are able to take advantage of discounts and special offers, and also have a say in how the co-op operates. The official description and contact information is on the website:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chicken First Aid: Injured Comb

It's like fate has been wanting to give Chicken-Man and I a quick 101 class in Basic Chicken First Aid!

First, one of the White Orpington's got broody and refused to leave the nest. Basically that means that a chicken is trying to hatch the eggs in the nest, which is a problem when there are no roosters and those eggs are never going to hatch. The hen won't leave the nest, which can be dangerous because she may not get enough food, water, or rest.

That was an easy enough fix, and we sequestered her in the spare rabbit hutch for a few days until she calmed down and returned to normal.

Then (as seen in last Tuesday's post) we came out to the coop to find one of the Araucanas laying just the soft shell of an egg, which Chicken Man had to help pull it out. We cleaned off some of her gunky feathers just to be safe. Not too difficult.

Monday morning I headed out to the chicken coop expecting the normal quick feed-and-watering. For a second I thought maybe Chicken-Man had spilled paint all over the chicken's roost. Then I realized it was blood.

The night before some friends had stayed over, and their pet dogs had given the chickens a bit of a fright. It seemed like everything was fine, but I think maybe one of the chickens injured her comb during the panic. Poor girl!

The spare rabbit hutch has sure come in handy, because we had to put her in there to make sure the other chickens didn't peck at her wounds.

Thank goodness for the internet and It looks like comb injuries aren't too serious- some folks who breed their chickens for show even cut them off on purpose.

Luckily she just had a small cut though, and the comb doesn't seem like it needs to be removed. Yesterday we had quite the adventure bringing the chicken into the shower to wash the wound with saltwater, and then put a little Neosporin on it.

She seemed to like being dried off with the hairdryer! I took a picture with Chicken-Man's camera so hopefully I can post it soon. She's still in the rabbit hutch until she heals up a little more.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dick Proenneke

Dick Proenneke is the man.

After nearly losing his eyesight in an accident working as a diesel mechanic, this sturdy, upper-middle-aged gent decided he wanted to enjoy life while it lasted.

And so, Dick moved to Alaska in his fifties, and build himself a cabin entirely by hand, with hand tools. He ended up staying there for thirty years.

Or as Thoreau wrote in Walden:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

[...] I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan- [...] to know [life] by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

Last Tuesday night, Chicken-Man hosted a screening of all three videos documenting Dick's experience. He was a diarist and filmmaker, hence the excellent record of this beautiful adventure. All of the shots were recorded by Dick's camera on a tripod, and the narration is from his own journals.

The first video details the building of the cabin, and it's incredible to see the craftsmanship and attention to detail as the rough logs get planed and shaped, moss becomes insulation, and river rocks and mud become a gorgeous fire-place. If you watch any of the Dick Proenneke series, this is the one to watch. The beginning of it is the YouTube segment posted above.

In the second film in the series, he is in his eighties, still living in the cabin with only the bears, moose, rabbits, wolverines, and fish for company, along with the little birds he feeds by hand with his homemade sourdough. Another filmmaker has come to visit Dick and record him on his long walks and canoe rides through the mountainous wilderness.

To watch Dick steadily plod along with his bow-legged gait, endlessly chopping wood, sawing, carrying water, fishing, and watching the animals through his binoculars you can feel the peace and satisfaction coming through.

Watching the films, I was reminded of why I love the idea of self-reliance in the first place. The endless news about global warming, the calculus of energy use for homemade vs. store-bought goods, it all fell away.

A love of making your own home has to be some kind of drive inside of you, and while hauling your own water and making food from scratch isn't for everyone, for some of us it's the path to happiness.

It is interesting, of course, that although both Dick and Thoreau remove themselves from society, they still record their experience. It makes me feel better about writing this blog! I hope that some of these small projects here might inspire you the way these men have inspired so many.

"Some men are satisfied making parts of things," Dick says. "As for me, I like the whole." Then he swings open a door that he framed, built three identical hinges entirely out of wood, and a dead-bolt to boot.

"What was I capable of, that I didn't know yet?"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Araucana Eggs

Another Araucana started laying, so our daily egg count is now up to six and is getting quite multi-colored.

I love the shades of blue and green mixed in with the pinkish tans.

Last night the Chicken Man (CM) and I had our first minor experience with chicken first aid. It was actually quite serendipitous, since we almost never check on the chickens at night.

But CM went out to see if we had any eggs in the nesting boxes, and what did he find but an Araucana looking like it was laying an egg! He almost closed the door so as not to disturb her, but then we realized that something looked off.

What we first thought was a broken egg turned out to be a soft outside shell of an egg. CM helped pull it out gently. Her feathers around the vent were looking rather pasted together and dirty, so after washing it as best we could, we clipped out the clumped feathers.

Hopefully she will be good as new! She seemed a little dazed after being handled, but as soon as CM lifted her up and put her on her feet she rambled over to sleep with her friends on the roost.

I'm thinking maybe this was a first egg experience or something, I guess we'll just keep an eye on her and make sure things are normal over the next few days.

January: Bean Soup + Sourdough

We're still working our way through the venison stock and canned goods.

Winter Bean Stew:

+ two pints venison stock
+ one quart canned tomatoes
+ three carrots
+ one onion
+ two bay leaves
+ 1/4 quart dry mixed beans, soaked overnight

+ Combine the stock, tomatoes, soaked beans, and bay leaves. Simmer two to three hours, stirring periodically.

+ Add the carrots and onions. Simmer another half an hour. Taste.

+ A dash of hot sauce on top is great!

Also, my puffiest sourdough yet!

The previous (and much denser) loaf is pictured behind that lovely, air-pocket filled delight in front.

Who knew that actually following the minute details of the King Arthur recipe would pay off. Switching to part bread flour instead of part all-purpose may also have helped.

I think I just let the dough rest for the appropriate amount of time, instead of winging it.

Steps I didn't skip this time included folding the dough into thirds after letting it rise for an hour. Also, letting the dough rest before forming it into the final tight ball.

I'm going to have to rethink my sourdough schedule to make sure I do it right every time now.

Homemade Exfoliating Scrub has been quiet lately! My work schedule tends to get very hectic around this time of year, so I'm not able to post as much.

But as always there are a few projects here and there, so get ready for a small series of posts!

Homemade exfoliant, houseplant propagation, sourdough baking, bean soup, and homegrown eggs were all fun little projects around the BaltimoreDIY urban homestead this weekend.

Plus I got to go to the library and several yummy area restaurants, including 24 hour Korean BBQ, Tortilleria Sinaloa where they make their own tortillas daily, and Trinacria, which is a historic Italian deli. So full of yumminess!

*Homemade Exfoliating Scrub*

Some of you long-time readers may remember my mention of homemade exfoliant during last year's blizzard (a.k.a. "snowpocalyse" or "snOMG" around these parts.)

What with all the dry indoor heat and cold winter air, skin tends to get somewhat upset. This past Saturday I whipped up a small jar of exfoliant, and it is heaven!

+ sea salt
+ grapeseed oil
+ tea tree essential oil
+ lavender essential oil

+ Pour several tablespoons of sea salt into a small jar. Pour in oil until it just covers the salt. Add 5 drops of each essential oil. Stir.

Total cost: less than $1!

1. Wash your face with warm water.

2. Then take a dollop of the exfoliant and rub lightly on your face, legs, or wherever you want to rub off the dry skin. It will feel rough and scratchy, but that's what makes it effective.

3. Rinse off with warm water. No soap! There will be a thin layer of oil left on your skin, which will help moisturize.

4. The essential oils are anti-bacterial, which will help clear up any breakouts on your face.

Try to resist touching your skin after, but it's hard because your skin will feel super soft!

And of course, all of the ingredients in this recipe can be used in a myriad of other ways, so you get a long of bang for your buck when you buy them.

I don't even have to explain the sea salt. Grapeseed oil is fantastic for frying food because of its high smoke point, and it also works well as a lotion or massage oil because it is so light. Tea tree and lavender essential oils make great perfumes or additions to all natural cleaning products.

Once you start buying items for your DIY pantry, you'll start learning that you can whip up all kinds of goodies on the spot~

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Savory Steel Cut Oats: A Spicy Soup!

Usually when it comes to making oatmeal, we think sweet. Maple syrup, berries, nuts, cream, raisins and other dried fruit are all amazing toppings for this great winter breakfast.

One of my favorite things about living DIY is eating food that's off the beaten path. Hence, savory steel cut oats!

Steel cut oatmeal is an entirely different animal from that Quaker stuff you buy in a bag. Think you don't like oatmeal because of the mushy texture? Steel cut may change your mind.

Instant oatmeal is made of oats that have been steamed and rolled out, while steel cut oats are the whole kernel that has been cut into pieces. Although they take longer to cook, the extra 30 minutes is worth it!

Steel cut oats have a delicious chewy texture and slightly nutty flavor. In this savory soup, I'd bet barley or brown rice would be a great substitute.

To save time, cook up a big pot of steel cut oats on a Sunday night for easy reheating throughout the week. (The McCann's brand website has additional recipes and cooking tips.)

Chicken-Man and I visited friends and family in New York last weekend, so I was short on time and used a pre-made carrot+ginger soup mixed in with the oats.

The photo above shows the chunk of ginger I added and a splash of the soup. I ended up adding about an equal amount of soup to the oats. You can choose how soupy or hearty you like your dish.

If I was up to my full Foodmaking Power I really want to try this soup with the frozen butternut squash from last summer and coconut milk (or yogurt from Mill Valley).

From an energy use and/or food security point of view, this soup is nice because it can be made from pantry items that don't need to be stored in the fridge.

Adjust spices to your liking:

- cumin
- cinnamon
- ginger root
- hot sauce

Feel free to experiment as you see fit!

I've had quite a cold the last few days, and this soup has been a great balance of spicy and soothing. I poured on a TON of hot sauce to really clean out my nose. Yum!
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