Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Urban Homestead" Legal Hubbub & Taking a Break

Hi everyone!

So by now it's probably apparent that I'm taking a little break from blogging. The workload at my day job gets really heavy at this time of year, and it's coinciding with trying to plan a new, very large garden that is requiring a lot more than last year's little 10' x 3 ' bed required.

Of course in the meantime of my small sabbatical, there's been some big news in the "urban homesteading" culture that I feel the need to post here, since this is an "urban sustainability" blog!

I haven't read the flurry of documents about the drama, but HOMEGROWN.ORG has a full discussion and lists many links. Here's an excerpt of the drama, as posted on Boing Boing:

The Dervaes Family, who run a great urban farm in Pasadena, CA, is catching a lot of heat from urban homesteaders. They are objecting to a letter the Dervaes Family sent out a couple of days ago to let bloggers know that the terms "urban homestead" and "urban homesteading" are trademarks owned by the Dervaes Institute. They registered the terms in 2008.

The other side of the issue appears in a new post from Root Simple (formerly Homegrown Evolution):

We've landed in the middle of all this because in 2008 we wrote a book titled The Urban Homestead. Because they apparently believe this title infringes on their trademark, the Dervaes Institute has interfered with our ability, and the ability of our publisher, Process Media, to promote the book. We are by no means the only people affected by their actions, but we can only speak for ourselves.

This debate should sound familiar to many Baltimoreans, as we just went through our own trademarking firefight over a local businesswoman's trademark of the word "Hon."

I guess I could come down on some side of the debate, but frankly, I don't care so much. Too many other things on my plate. And Chicken-Man keeps reminding me that I started all of this because I love food and growing things, and if any of it starts to get too frustrating, let it go. So I'm keeping that in mind.

I do love the internet for how much it allows us to build a community, but I've been wondering what will happen as "urban homesteading" becomes more and more of a culture. I guess this is one of the things that happens.

But for now, I've got to figure out if the mail lost my leek seeds so I can get these super-early spring crops in the ground!

And by the way, apologies for a random photo up top, I hate posting just text, and wanted a generic photo but not some junky free clip art from the Internet. And in light of this post topic, I didn't want to steal a photo from another site!

P.P.S Special shoutout to Nick Biddle for being a curator of the Internet and being the first one to tip me off to this debate.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Bunnies and Homemade Fig Newtons

More bunnies!

That's right. Our female American Chinchilla rabbit (Ethel) isn't being the best breeder with our male American Chinchilla (Frank).

Sometimes she warms up to him (see photo below!) but she still won't allow him to breed with her.

And as you can see, we let the chickens out of the coop too! It's so hard to get any weekend chores done when there are bunnies to pet and chickens to watch putter around the yard.

So just in case she never breeds, Chicken-Man and I drove out to Halethorpe this weekend and bought two more rabbits. Two month old Rex rabbits, to be exact.

We got a doe (female) and a buck (male), but since they are still young they can be housed together. We'll probably have to separate them in a month or two, but for now they are being the bestest of friends, cuddling up in the straw-filled cardboard box, eating carrot bits, and generally being adorable.

Does that mean I have worked out my difficulties with meat eating and cuteness? No.

But the bunnies won't be ready for breeding for four months, and then it will be another six months before the rabbits can be eaten, so I have almost a year to work things out. We'll see. For now, I am loving the rabbit compost and the fact that once it's warm the rabbits can eat the garden waste and turn it into instantly usable compost.

What else went on in the land of BaltimoreDIY this past weekend?

We went to our usual Sunday night barbeque at the neighbor's house. These are the same neighbors who have three fig trees and two peach trees in their yard. Last summer I canned up about four pints of fresh figs with lemon juice and cinnamon, with future plans to treat everyone in the dead of winter.

So Sunday afternoon I made homemade fig newtons with the canned figs! The recipe came from King Arthur flour. Here's a photo:

I replaced the shortening with butter and doubled the recipe, and the dough came out really crumbly and dry. After some momentary frustration, it turned out that the fig syrup gave the dough the stickiness it needed and everything turned out fine.

I tried making some with canned poppyseed filling as well, but they were much more dry than the fig variety. A great mid-morning snack with coffee.

Now that the weather is warming up, I'm dreaming of making a cutting from the fig trees to make more fig trees!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Heart's Place Shelter

Want to dance your booty off and support a good cause this weekend? You're in luck!

This weekend 2640 is hosting an event to help out one of our fellow building neighbors:

Saturday Feb 12, 7:30PM : The Open Hearts Ball!

Please join us for the third annual Open Hearts Ball , to celebrate Heart's Place Shelter and help fund their 2011 season!

Food, beer and wine, and dancing to our local slice of New Orleans, Sac Au Lait, and Old Man Brown - a fun evening to support one of the few area shelters allowing homeless families to stay together. Tickets are $15 at the door or $12 in advance, coming soon to Red Emma's.

Price of admission includes food from local businesses; beer and wine available for sale. Hope to see you there!

For more information, please go to www.openheartsball.org or contact Maggie Cawley at openheartsball@yahoo.com.

For more on Heart's Place, please visit http://www.stjohnsbaltimore.orgheart’splaceshelter.

You may have heard me mention 2640 before, since I often volunteer with the space to hold various art and music events, fundraisers, workshops, activist book release parties, DIY Fest, STEW, community hooping and yoga classes, alternative weddings and more. Proceeds from all events go towards rent, building maintenance, and occasionally skilled labor needed as per the event.

Part II: "BaltimoreDIY Learns to Cook for 25 People at Heart's Place"

It's convenient that the Open Hearts fundraising ball is this weekend, since I just had a big Heart's Place related cooking adventure.

Once a month the St. Johns church members cook dinner for the Heart's Place guests. There is salad, dinner, dessert, and everyone sits down and eats together. This past Monday, I volunteered to take care of the main dinner!

It was terrifying, but I was excited for the opportunity to make dinner for 20-30 people. I also wanted to make a meal with lots of vegetable options and sustainable meat to see how much something like that would cost.

The meal:

- Three 5.5 pound roasted chickens
- Black beans
- Yellow rice
- Stewed tomatoes
- Kale
- Toasted bread with olive oil

The chickens came from Mill Valley, and oh man does sustainably priced meat cost a pretty penny more. I'm a little embarrassed to say how much I spend on chicken, but I managed to stretch the meat far.

Rather than serve individual pieces of meat like a leg or a wing, I shredded the roasted chicken and served it with the rice, beans, and vegetables. That way the meat seems to go a little further and is still satisfying.

People seemed to enjoy the meal, went back for seconds, and the director of the shelter even thanked me for having so many different vegetable options. Yay!

It was also fun figuring out ways to use up all of the leftovers.

Over a quart of grease came out of those chickens! Some of the grease got used to cook the rice and was poured into leftovers soup for flavor. Chicken-Man suggested that some of this chicken fat can be ground up with some of the venison bits for sausage or meatballs. You definitely don't want to eat all of this at once:

Since the chickens were roasted on Super Bowl Sunday, I got to share one of my favorite chicken snacks with all of our friends. After you have shredded the chicken, you will be left with large pieces of skin. Put the skin in a pan on medium to low heat, and the skin will fry in its own fat to make delicious chicken cracklins' that will widen the eyes of any pork-lover. Thrifty re-use #2!

Thrifty re-use #3 is coming tonight when I make stock out of the three chicken carcasses.

What happened to the rest of the meal? Well, if you soak and cook your own beans, you will be left with lots of delicious bean liquid. The leftover beans and their liquid got mixed with the leftover tomatoes and their liquid too. Toss the extra kale in and a leftover rice, add some hot sauce on top, and you've got a ton of yummy soup!

Instead of draining all that bean and tomato liquid into the sink, I ended up with quarts of black bean soup. There's even a sneak peak of the BaltimoreDIY pantry in the background! And that's Chicken-Man's beer brewing on the floor:

Too much rice and lots of eggs in the backyard? Mix the rice with two or three eggs, some onions and peas, a little smoked cheddar or other cheese if you've got it, and you've got a great casserole to slice for snacks or lunch:

Mix all ingredients together, pour into a greased casserole dish and bake at 350 for about an hour. This seems like something that even kids will love, and you could sneak various vegetables into it.

So, even though the chickens were expensive, the meal served about 25 people + turned out about five quarts of soup, a casserole, and probably four or five quarts of chicken stock.

What are some of your cost-effective, crowd-pleasing meals that you love to make with sustainable and healthy food?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bows n arrows (and rugs)

Just another Sunday in Remington!

Over the course of the last month or so, Chicken-Man and our friend (popularly known in the neighborhood as 'Beartooth' or 'Science Guy') have been taking a primitive skills class on bow-making at the Oregon Ridge Nature Center.

They just finished their handmade bows on Thursday night and took them out for a spin on Sunday. It was a great opportunity to enjoy one of the earliest sunny days of the year.

I even tried the bow myself, but with a 40-lb. draw, I wasn't able to get much control or speed. I'll probably get a junior size bow and arrow set. I can see archery becoming a fun early evening thing to do once the weather gets warm.

Beartooth even plucked several large wing feathers from his chickens to make fletchings (the feather part at the end of each arrow.)

They also filed notches into the backs of the arrows.

The trimmed feather ready to become fletching:

If you want the arrow to spiral, you can tie the trimmed feathers so that they are slightly staggered on the shaft (instead of directly next to each other.) There's probably a better way to describe that! For more details, a quick Google search turned up this site for making a homemade bow and arrow.

The gentleman were working on their arrows Saturday night after dinner, so the rest of us settled in on our own projects with drinks. I love crafting parties! It's so much more fun when your project involves a lot of repetitive work, and I even got a helping hand. I'm working on a rag rug that we can rest our boots and watering can on for when we water the chickens.

The rug is very simple and I'm not making it too pretty since it's just going to get dirty. Here are the basic steps to make it:

1. Tear old rags into long strips. One method is to cut the rag in a spiral so that you end up with one very long strip. Or you could just cut straight lines and tie the strips together.

2. Braid the strips.

3. Coil the braided rope, sewing as you coil so that the rug stays together.

In the photo below, you can see the beginning of the coil, the big pile of braid, and then the three balls of fabric strips that are being braided.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Backyard Livestock Links

The Perennial Plate Episode 44: Bunnies - Part one: The Farm from Daniel Klein on Vimeo.

Well, my original intention today was to post a sketch of the plans Chicken-Man helped me draw up for a large fence around this year's garden.

But during the course of today, I received a few good links about backyard livestock and thought I would share them with you lovely BaltimoreDIY readers.

I found the video above after a Baltimore Foodmaker sent out a link to the site The Perennial Plate, which "is an online weekly documentary series dedicated to socially responsible and adventurous eating."

I immediately clicked on the link about rabbit farming, since Chicken-Man and I have been trying to breed Frank and Ethel for a little while now and I have still been having some difficulty with the idea. Which I know is hypocritical since I was fine with the demise of our roosters and made great stock with them. But still.

By the way, for a picture of our bunnies, scroll down on this post.

Another reader sent me a link to a New York Times article about urban chickens that delighted a neighborhood. When one of the chickens goes missing, people send out a great show of support, and the chicken is eventually found!

It put a smile on my face, so I hope it puts one on yours. Here is the link.

After being stopped by various people around Remington who tell me how much they like the garden and want to reminisce about their parents' or grandparents' garden, or talk about the weather or recipes, I've really come to love how much people appreciate seeing a little bit of nature in the unexpected city environment and how much it brings them together and gives people something fun to talk about.

Next step, fish?!
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