Thursday, June 23, 2011

Home-Scale Permaculture Design Course

Home-Scale Permaculture Design Course
Starting Saturday, Sept. 10 – Sunday, Sept. 11 (first of six weekends)
Heathcote Community, Freeland, MD

Starting Sept. 10, 2011

Permaculture, a term originated by Australian ecologists, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, means permanent culture. Using both ancient and modern knowledge, this methodology mimics universal patterns found in nature to create healthy human habitats. Guided by ethical behavior, Permaculture is a system of designing ecologically inspired landscapes that integrate home food production, energy, shelter and water. Participants will learn:

- Observation and site analysis to identify resource opportunities
- Bioregional ecosystems, diversity and natural patterns
- How to protect local watersheds and restore wildlife habitat
- Water harvesting and management in the landscape; detoxification with rain gardens
- Nutrient recycling with grey water and composting toilets
- Identification of microclimates and zone planning for efficiency
- Renewable energy systems and small-scale appropriate technology
- Natural building and passive-solar home retrofitting
- Fruit growing with forest gardens and plant guild design
- Intensive no-till food gardening, soil regeneration and composting
- How to cultivate forests, grains and cash crops
- Integration of domestic animals and aquaculture
- Social/economic strategies for urban/community scale food, energy and water security

Instructor: As a Permaculture designer, architect, and life-long organic gardener, Patty Ceglia is passionate about finding the ecological balance for productive potential of every site. She teaches at Wilson College, where her students practice hands-on strategies at the 160 acre Center for Sustainable Living.

21300 Heathcote Road, Freeland, MD 21053

Six Weekends
Fall 2011 & Spring 2012
Sept. 10-11; Oct. 1-2; Nov. 5-6
Mar. 3-4; Mar. 31 – Apr. 1; Apr. 28-29

Sliding scale fee:
Early bird $800 - $1,000

After August 10: $900 - $1,100

Register online at:

For more information:
Call: 410-357-9523

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Summer Solstice 2011!

Long-time BaltimoreDIY readers will recognize this photo from last year's summer solstice post.

My fellow fairy Katie Red and I try to celebrate each of the solstice's together with seasonal food, floral decorations, etc. Last year we had an herbal salad of nasturtium blossoms, basil, daylilies, pea shoots, and more. We also had pesto with pickled carrots and goat cheese, and pickled beets with yogurt.

I brought over some sparklers to celebrate the closing of the longest-lit day of the year, and Katie's husband Jason ended up snapping this pic of the sparkler in a fiery circle. Quite the perfect solstice symbol!

Like last year, Katie and I will be celebrating at the close of the solstice. I have a bunch of beet greens leftover from the beet harvest on Saturday morning, so I'm thinking of making asian-style greens with a little sugar, chili, and sesame seeds. They'll be a side dish for Korean pajeon (pancake), which will make use of our many eggs. I also have a jar of plum jam leftover from last year that I've been saving for a special occasion. Perhaps a drizzling sauce for the pajeon!

How do you celebrate the solstice?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Urban Food Fair Went Great!

Our first market day last Saturday went great! Thanks to everyone who stopped by the Urban Food Fair to say hi and purchase fresh produce grown right here in Baltimore City.

All five jars of radish kimchee sold out, as did all five jars of foraged serviceberries. We also used up about three cups of lavender syrup and two cups of serviceberry syrup for some special flavored lemonades. Loose chamomile for tea, beet greens, purslane, and mixed kale-mustard-collard greens were also sold.

We really didn't want to use a lot of disposable plastic cups, so we decided to sell the lemonade in glass jars and have people put down a $1 deposit on the jar. The system worked really well, and I think some people even kept the jars as souvenirs which was fine with me. Loved not having all that trash waste at the end of the market, and it helps that Chicken-Man has a dishwasher at his house to clean those glass jars. The system wouldn't work for a giant market like Artscape, but for sales of probably up to 40 glasses of lemonade it works.

I even had the honor of making a serviceberry lemonade for Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen! I kept my cool and didn't squeal in excitement or anything... he was so nice and said he liked it!

Cheryl and our Americorps farm assistant Baba harvesting the beets that morning (you couldn't get beet greens or pickled beets any fresher!):

We harvested about seven pounds of beets and seven pounds of greens. After harvesting the beets at 8 a.m., Baba washed the greens and I pickled the beets, and we all generally prepped for the market until about 11:30.

Love the color of these pickled beets! I hate the recipes that are full of cloves and super-sweet, so I cut the sugar in the recipe in half and used peppercorns and mustard seeds instead of cloves and cinnamon. Mmm, savory and tart!

Other market photos:

Our friend Elisa from Whitelock Farm:

Cheryl handing the Real Foods farm manager Tyler a lemonade glass:

Thanks again everyone, this market was wonderful. I was so nervous back in early April when our first sprouts were barely poking up. I kept saying it wouldn't feel real until the first crops were harvested and made into real food for people. Now that dream has come true, and it couldn't have been better.

The okra are just starting to put out their first little pods, the squash, zucchini, and cukes are flowering, and the greens are getting larger every day. We are still putting transplants of peppers and melons in the ground and even starting more seedlings of greens. I can't wait to think of new products to make with all of this great produce.

I'll you all at another market soon!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Come Visit Us at the Urban Food Fair Tomorrow!

Come visit the Boone Street farm tomorrow (Saturday 6/18) at the Urban Food Fair at Real Food Farm!

The schedule:
 Saturday, June 18 @ Real Food Farm
9:00 to noon | Volunteer Activities
Noon & on | Local Lunch Vendors
Noon to 2 | Urban Farmers Market, Seed-Planting Station, Farm Tours & More

Featured Farms: Boone St. Farm, Five Seeds Farm, Great Kids Farm, Real Food Farm, Whitelock Community Farm, and more.

Other exhibitors will include: Slow Food Baltimore, Blue Water Baltimore, Baltimore Neighborhood Energy Challenge, Baltimore Center for Green Careers and more.

Just check out those lovely beet greens in the above photo. We'll have those available, and my goal is to pickle and can all of the beet roots tonight. We may have pickled carrots too, depending on how much time I have for canning and how large the carrots are.

The oblong leaves in the lower area of the photo are purslane, which we will also be bringing to market. You may have noticed purslane spreading through your garden, it pops up seemingly out of nowhere and is incredibly resilient. If purslane has popped up and spread through your garden, you have a fun garden bonus.

According to Wikipedia, "purslane contains more omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid in particular[4]) than any other leafy vegetable plant." If you've never had it, purslane has a lovely firm and crunchy texture and slightly lemony taste, which goes great on top of hummus and crackers, as a garnish, or as an addition to cool summer salads. Famed forager Wildman Steve Brill writes that it was Ghandi's favorite food!

Total list of Boone Street products we will be bringing to market:

Beet greens
Pickled beets
Pickled carrots*
Homemade radish kimchee
Canned serviceberries in syrup
Lavender syrup
Chamomile tea by the glass and jar
Lavender lemonade by the glass and jar


Hope to see you there! Come say hi!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

MICA Class Visit #2 & An Experiment: How Long Will It Take This "Biodegradable" Bag to Biodegrade?

This is going to be a short post since I've got to run out to the monthly Greater Greenmount Community Association meeting.

But I said yesterday I'd post a photo of how happy the plants look after these lovely rainy days and cooler temperatures. The above photo is our hubbard squash, black eyed pea, and sorghum plants during last week's nearly 100 degree temperatures.

Monday the plants looked much better!

The sorghum and black eyed peas:

My favorite shot of the peanuts:

Ms. Haroline walking in the background with a shot of the beets:

Cheryl and Ms. Haroline, with a view of the squash:

 Cheryl welcoming the MICA class, with a view of the okra and cucumbers row. We are hoping that as the okra grows tall, we can easily trellis the cukes onto the okra:

Also, I'm trying an experiment.

I received a biodegradable shopping bag at OK Natural, my favorite local health food co-op on Preston Street.

Say you add that biodegradable bag to your worm compost bin... I was curious to know just how long it will take the bag to break down. This post marks the start of the experiment! I will keep you all posted.

It's interesting to note that biodegradable products are only able to break down if they are added to a compost pile. So if you're tossing that corn-cup into the trash, it's not going to receive enough oxygen and microbials in the landfill to help it break down (in my layman's terms, I'm not a scientist!).

The bag was put into the compost bin on June 10th, I believe.


My friend Geoff Stack has informed me that I should find out what the bag is made out of, because some biodegradable bags are just made to break down into tinier pieces more quickly, while other bags actually biodegrade. See, I'm learning already!

Monday, June 13, 2011

MICA Class Visit to Boone Street

Today a MICA class came on a visit and workday to Boone Street Farm!

So amazing to have the help of over a dozen people... we got an entire new row built, lots of crabgrass taken out, and four apple saplings put in the ground. Thank you all so muich!

The class was also interested in hearing about how the community garden and urban farm functions, how it works with the community, what the steps were in creating the garden, how we interact with the rest of the Baltimore urban farming community, and food security and education in general. I was really wishing we could have recorded the conversation!

The photo above is Cheryl showing the class the community side of the garden.

I was hoping that one of our regular helpers would show up and was excited when our friend Brian came by to see what was going one.

I'd say Brian comes to the garden pretty much every day. He's got a small plot with three pumpkin plants in the community garden, but mostly just likes to hang out with us and ask if he can use the pickax or get in my truck. This morning he wanted to dig in the dirt with a shovel so he helped us put in a small area for flowers. He said a few words to the class about what he likes about the garden, which apparently is "watering and getting to play in the garden."

 The other side of the garden is the farm side where we are growing produce that will hopefully sustain the farm economically in the future so we don't have to rely on continual grant funding. It's also our area for personal projects, like figuring out new companion planting combinations or testing soil quality based on different cover crops grown.

While the class was visiting the garden I harvested our radishes for making kimchee. The kimchee will be just one of our Boone Street products available at the Urban Food Fair at the Real Food Farm in Clifton Park THIS SATURDAY! You should come visit!

Here is everyone checking out our cucumbers and okra. Beets are planted in the row to the right. These photos were taken last week during one of those 100 degree days and all the plants look like wilted hell. Can't wait to post the photos I took this morning after all the nice rain we got... the plants are bursting out all over!

The potatoes:

Sorghum and black-eyed peas:

There are also plenty more crops, like greens, peanuts, peppers, tomatoes, oregano, and basil.

Here's a view of the curved area of the garden (we are trying to curve the rows to follow the slope of the ground and capture how rain drains more efficiently.) We've got about one-third of the lot covered:

Hope to post more photos of the lush, happy plants soon! I've been wondering what the peanut flowers would look like and finally found out so I'm excited to post the shots. I guess for a final photo I'll show the hubbard squash's sad state last week:

Stay tuned for the post-rain pics!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cool Summertime Meals: Tabbouleh

It's hot! The thermometer has been reaching close to 100 degrees here in Baltimore. There was a fabulous rainstorm last night and some light rain today, but cooking in the kitchen is still way low on my list of things to do.

All I wanted was a nice cool salad that was hearty enough to work as a meal.

First I searched the awesome recipe website Food52, which has some great recipes for desserts like Feta Frozen Yogurt with Blood Orange Granita (whaaaaat!) and a few light bites like Pan Bagnat with French Tuna Salad.

Those recipes looked great, but I wanted something that was more of a one-pot meal.

I started thinking of what was growing in my garden and what hearty grains I could add, then about the lemon juice in my fridge... and suddenly thought: Tabbouleh!

According to Wikipedia: Tabbouleh (Arabic: تبولة‎; also tabouleh or tab(b)ouli) is a Levantine salad traditionally made of bulgur, finely chopped parsley and mint, tomato and spring onion, seasoned with lemon juice and olive oil.[1][2]

Not only is tabbouleh cool and refreshing while also being very satisfying, it requires very little stove-top heat.

One recipe at Epicurious posts these directions for making the bulgur:

Stir together bulgur and 1 tablespoon oil in a heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water over, then cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand 15 minutes. Drain in a sieve, pressing on bulgur to remove any excess liquid.

Transfer bulgur to a bowl and toss with remaining ingredients, including 2 tablespoons oil, until combined well.

Just a little boiling of water and light chopping sounded great to me!

And don't be afraid to modify the recipe according to what you have on hand.

I didn't have any fresh parsley on hand and was too hot and exhausted from gardening to go to the store, so I just walked over to the Remington garden and picked myself some kale.

Fresh kale is so tender, and has a light spiciness to it that worked really well as replacement for the parsley.

Chicken-Man and I do have a bunch of mint growing on the back porch which I could have added. But since this was his first try at tabbouleh, I thought I'd ease him into the flavor and texture of it all. A cool salad of whole grains is somewhat unusual to a lot of people, and a bunch of mint in a salad isn't for everyone. Perhaps I'll try the mint next time and see which I prefer.

So glad to have cans of chopped tomatoes and lemon juice in the pantry! Must remember to keep them there at all times.

Sadly, no, these weren't my home-canned tomatoes, as those got eaten up a long time ago. Perhaps this year I will make more, but canning enough tomatoes to last me six months would be a full time job!

Easy Baltimore Summer Tabbouleh

Cook bulghur according to directions on package. (Or pour 1 cup boiling water over 1/2 cup bulgur, cover the bowl, and let steam for 15 minutes.)

Add the following ingredients to taste:

olive oil
chopped kale
chopped tomatoes
cracked black pepper
lemon juice

Make a large batch to store in the fridge!

Two cups of bulgur, a 16 ounce can of chopped tomatoes, and about four cups worth of chopped kale made at least six meal-sized servings of this salad.

Lovely for a summertime potluck, barbeque, or front-porch hangout!

(p.s. I will take advice about food photography! I have no idea what I'm doing other than setting the mode to "close-up.")

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Early June 2011 Canning: Rhubarb + Serviceberries

Berry season is here! Yesterday I mentioned foraging serviceberries, a special native treat, which I preserved as a sauce and syrup over the weekend.

What are serviceberries?

Baltimore Brew's resident foraging expert, Marta Hanson, wrote a fabulous article detailing the lore of serviceberry and its many names. She's my local foraging heroine!

As you can see from Marta's articles, the Johns Hopkins campus is a real bounty of wild food, and special thanks to whoever decided to use these edible native trees as ornamentals.

Here's a photo of the berries, and a link to last year's post which has more information and photos of the pie they made.

Plenty of people stopped me while I was foraging to ask what I was doing. Some people were really excited and interested, and some were wary that the berries weren't really edible... I guess seeing the berries that close to their natural habitat was a bit confusing!

Serviceberries aren't usually marketed, mostly because they are a pain to harvest and have as much seeds as fruit. They don't make the best fresh eating, but they make a fine berry pie. As for taste, they have the color and aftertaste of a blueberry, but the larger seeds and dryness of a cranberry.

The yellow jars are full of rhubarb syrup, which Chicken Man loves. The rhubarb was a bit expensive ($5/bunch), but two bunches made five jars, so $2 per jar ain't bad! The jars themselves add to the cost, but since you can re-use them year after year that cuts down on cost.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation posts directions for canning rhubarb here.

Don't let the descriptions like: "A lug weighs 28 pounds and yields 14 to 28 quarts" confuse you! Making the sauce is really quite simple.

We chopped up two bunches of rhubarb, then mixed it with about a cup of sugar. Let sit overnight in the fridge. Cook on the stove until it is the texture of sauce. Taste as it cooks and add more sugar if needed.

These small jars are half-pints. I processed them in the boiling water for 15 minutes to sterilize the jars and seal the tops. Now they are shelf-stable for a year!

The berry and rhubarb syrups will make good toppings for ice cream, yogurt, cheese and crackers, pancakes, cake, or pastry fillings. I'll take suggestions if you have other serving ideas as well!

I've even got some of the serviceberry syrup to mix into lemonade for sale at the Urban Food Fair. Come visit if you'd like a jar!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Duck Update

The ducks are getting big! 

Just one month ago they were still fuzzy little peepers cuddling together in a box. Remember?

Now they have all their feathers, they're quacking instead of peeping, and they're as big as the chickens!

The Indian Runner/Rouen mix next to a Rhode Island Red chicken:

Duck party with the chickens:

Oh man though, we need to get a smaller wading pond. The ducks absolutely love to splash around, but the water gets really gross really fast. And it's hard to get rid of that much dirty water. I've got my  eye out for a smaller container we can fill with water for the ducks to splash around in.

Just to make things fun, everyone escaped the run while I was turned around taking photos!

Cue hilarious Jack Benny soundtrack as I run around picking everyone up and throwing them in the run so I can get to work on time!

Urban Food Fair: June 18

Come visit me at the Boone Street Urban Farm table on June 18th!

There are a lot of farmer's markets in the city, but the produce being sold is usually from larger farms in the county. This marks the first time a market will have exclusively Baltimore City grown produce!

I've been foraging and canning serviceberries all weekend and will have some for sale, along with radish kimchee and other treats. Hope to see you there!

Friday, June 3, 2011

New Bunny!

As I mentioned two weeks ago, our American Chinchilla doe, Ethel, had kits! She had a very small litter of two, and one survived. Here it is!

The kit, or baby bunny, is about two weeks old. In case you are wondering, I do believe it will turn grey with time, much the same way the chickens change color as their fuzz falls out and their real feathers grow in.

Here it is being shy and trying to hide behind mama:

Peeking out:



You can read more about raising rabbits as part of a homegrown household on Pluck and Feather, a Bay Area urban homesteading blog I enjoy. Scroll down and you will see some of my comments!

This baby bunny post is dedicated to my sister, who I wish much happiness and congratulations on her new marriage!! Watching her become such an elegant bride and get married to her fabulous new husband put an even bigger grin on my face than this baby bunny does. Congratulations!

Giant Egg!

I pity the Araucana chicken who laid this giant egg! It's so big!

Chicken Man and I decided not to eat it, just in case.

One of the interesting things about growing your own food is coming into contact with food that doesn't exactly look like the picture-perfect grocery store variety.

Sometimes that's great, like these lovely blue Araucana eggs or the large white radishes that interested our Boone Street neighbors (before the SWAT team showed up!), but other times it is just plain weird!

According to the website Poultry Help, eggs can have a number of different abnormalities, such as having no shell, or having an egg within an egg.

And with that, please enjoy this YouTube video! I love the reactions of the couple filming- hah!:

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