Friday, April 29, 2011

Boone St. Garden Update: Community Beds Built.. and Was It Sabotage?


Compost has been delivered and the community garden beds are now framed! The empty Boone Street lots are starting to look like a real garden.

All together, L & J helped bring us 40 cubic yards of compost. I can't say thank you enough! This weekend we will be spreading the compost and planting transplants. I'd like to try to get some okra, peanuts, and a companion planting of sunflowers and black-eyed peas in the ground if I can.

For those of you who want a better picture of the garden, here's a photo of some of the houses bordering the lot. The completely abandoned houses next to people's residences is pretty indicative of the area. It's Baltimore.


And what's this about sabotage?!!

Cheryl and I came to the garden Monday night to do some light weeding and check on the progress of things. We've been really excited to see peas and radishes coming up.

Imagine our shock when we found about 1/4 of the seedlings completely pulled out of the ground! There were no nibble marks and the entire plant, roots and all, were laying next to the holes where they were planted. So we knew they were definitely pulled up by human hands.

Oh no! I sort of resigned myself to the idea that someone from the neighborhood must not like us poking around and wanted to show us a lesson. Or someone got drunk or was mad and went on a rampage. Cheryl was discouraged too.

We sadly went to go check on some other seedlings and noticed that a patch of wild-growing burdock had been devastated as well. (you can kind of see in the photo below)


(By the way, I had been bad-mouthing burdock about how invasive it is and what a pain it is to remove, but the Wikipedia entry for the plant is pretty interesting! I take it back, burdock!)

So there we were, feeling down about whoever it was had wrecked the plants. And then a few young boys came up, and I recognized one of them from last Saturday when I was moving the beet seedlings into rows.

"We got some carrots and beets!" they said excitedly.

"What?" We were confused. Our carrots and beets are barely visible right now. They're little two-leaf seedlings. "From here?" Uh oh. "Tell me where you found them," we said.

We walked over to where the radishes had been pulled out of the ground. The plant's little radish root was barely showing pink. This was the "beets." Then they pointed to the burdock roots. "That's a carrot!" one said excitedly. "I took it home and washed it."

"Sorry," I said. "Carrots won't be ready until about June. Did you eat it?!" I asked tentatively. He didn't really respond, so I think he might have tried it and realized it didn't taste that great. The kid kept swearing that it was a carrot, but after a while he seemed reasonably convinced that it wasn't.

We walked around explaining a few things about garden rules, like not pulling plants out of the ground unless they are the ones you have planted, and only walking on the burlap walkways, not on the dirt.

It was cute hearing their perceptions of the plants. The "I swear, it's a carrot!" kid pointed to a puffy head of dandelion seeds and called it a wish. He told his friend that the dandelion seeds will grow a tree. "Sorry," I said. "Those seeds grow more dandelions!" and then showed them the other parts of the plant. They still had fun with the ever-enduring game of blowing apart the seed pods!

We're realizing that wrangling excited kids to prevent garden damage is going to be a bigger job than we thought, but it's a good thing that they are so excited.

We showed them the community beds (see photo above!) and told them they can plant things of their own. They immediately started naming plants they wanted, like sunflowers and carrots. I think as long as the kids have a place of their own, and maybe something to play with that isn't the garden, we can avoid accidental crop damage (I'm thinking a tire swing, or maybe I will even bring a bunny for a visit.)

Phew! It wasn't sabotage at all. Just a few kids who got really excited after I showed just one of them a beet seedling last Saturday.

If you've got experience with young kids and gardens, feel free to leave any tips or tricks, we'd love to hear them!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Meet the Ducks 2



Duck video #2 taken this morning!

Again, sorry for the weird angle at the beginning, I wanted to get the ducks at the beginning of their "feeding frenzy" when they get breakfast in the morning and it's hard to see them on camera through the chicken wire so I have to film them from the top. Towards the end there are much better full shots of all the little duckies!

They're growing so fast, already they are getting leaner and more duck-like instead of the little round fuzz balls they were barely two weeks ago.

I took a few individual shots of each duck too and will post them soon!

A few group shots:




And a Rhode Island Red trying to steal some of the duckling food (which this morning was chopped up gefilte fish, wilted spinach, and matzah soaked in water since Passover just ended):

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Friends with Bees


Yesterday I went to pick up some of the tools we borrowed from the Parks and People tool share, and found my friend Dane checking on his bees. Thought I'd post a few photos to share!

(Oh boy, can't wait for a new camera.. it would be nice to actually be able to see the bees in detail in the photo.)

Aren't his hives pretty?!


I don't know much about bees, although I did go to the Parks & People beekeeping workshop back in 2009. I think Dane was checking up on his queens. One day I'd like to learn more, but I think I've got my hands full for now!


All of the combs are lined up on this table, but I'm not sure why:


Worms, ducks, chickens, rabbits, bees, soldier fly larvae... all great small scale livestock for the urban environment. I can dream of a day for pygmy goats though!

Boone St. garden update coming soon!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Compost Has Arrived!


Latest update on Boone Street community garden and urban farm: compost and transplants!

The fine folks at L & J trucking helped us out with a dump truck to bring 20 cubic yards of Recycle Green compost. Thank you! It arrived just in time for us to start spreading it and have the warm weather plants in the ground during the next few weeks.

Last Friday the 22nd Cheryl and I woke up at the crack of dawn to get to the garden by 7 a.m. It was nice that even at that super-early time of morning a neighbor on his way to work came over and said he and his wife had been interested in starting a community garden for some time! Every time I get nervous or overwhelmed with all this garden activity, the neighborhood response keeps me going.

I have to admit, initially I was worried that we would be perceived as a gentrifying force (I dislike the word gentrification because it gets thrown around a lot and its meaning is very muddy, but you know what I mean.) But I needn't have been so worried!

Our very frequent presence in the garden and at community meetings has been a big help in meeting neighbors, and everyone has been so supportive and interested.

People have told us that it's about time someone put the abandoned area to good use, asked about bringing their kids by one day, and mainly are interested in asking questions and learning what we're planting. Kids ride up on their bikes and we'll show them the seedlings, and they share about how much they love beets and carrots.

Once the community beds are actually build and we've put in the transplants, I think there will be even more involvement.

Well, that's enough of the social part of the garden for now.. what about the work that's going on?!

Since rain was predicted every day this weekend, we surrounded the compost heap with straw and tried to cover it with leaves to prevent nutrient erosion. I also laid out a few perennial herb transplants since the seeds seem to be struggling a bit with the newly broken soil.

Here are a few chamomile plants that I dug out of the Remington garden and a strawberry transplant that was gifted to us. The larger plants are more established chamomile planted a few weeks ago:


Since we've got enough soil to till for the food crops, we are taking the easy way out with the perennial transplants and putting them in a "lasagna bed." Cardboard and/or newspaper are laid down directly on top of the grass, then layers of compost, leaves, and straw are added to form the bed. All we have to do is make a hole for the transplanted herb in the bed. You can see the chamomile in their pots ready to be planted.

After laying out the transplants and circling the compost with straw, we went to the Loading Dock to get lumber for the community garden beds.


The Loading Dock is an awesome organization in Baltimore that recycles construction materials. They are such a great resource!

The truck getting loaded up with lumber:


Special thanks to Lowell, Brent, and Jessica for lending a hand on Saturday to build the garden beds, pick up trash, lay down a second 100 foot row of compost, and weed. You guys are amazing!

Lowell took photos of all the action on Saturday so I hope to have those posted soon.

And since this is sort of a compost-themed post, here's a photo of a super awesome looking compost bin setup that some friends of mine just built. So pretty!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Porch Art



Hi readers! I've been feeling stuck in a bit of a rut lately just posting about me, me, and my projects. As you might have noticed from Wednesday's post about Specks and Keepings, I'm going to try to branch out and talk about other projects I admire.

(At one point I did do quite a bit of posting of event announcements, but that started to make me feel pressured because of the time constraints on those kinds of posts, and I never knew how to handle turning down a request for an event announcement post.)

Today I'd like to focus on my Remington neighbor Beth Barbush, and the free Porch Art program she runs!

Porch Art brings a lot of life and fun to Remington, and the Hauntingdon block party they put on for Halloween is seriously one of the best block parties I have ever been to. She's always looking for volunteers and donations of art supplies, so if you want to get involved, please read Beth's words below!

So here is a sweet video of this past year's Hauntingdon celebration (p.s. the chickens toward the end of the video aren't ours, someone else in the neighborhood has them too!)

Beth says:

Porch Art is a volunteer run community program for kids and their parents in the Remington neighborhood to socialize and engage in creative art, craft, interactive projects. It is held at 2942 Huntingdon Ave on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 - 8pm.

Porch Art this year will start on April 26th and will run through October 31st. It is a free activity and is great to just drop in and engage in a creative project or stay for the whole session and meet some new neighbors.

In the past three years we have had a variety of participants come from age 2 up to their 80's so we plan activities that are flexible and open enough for anyone to join in.

Porch Art is also an important ingredient in Remington's annual Halloween block celebration "Hauntingdon Avenue". Porch Art participants, youth and adults, create the spooky decorations and plan out activities and fun that will happen at the community block party.

This year we hope to include more interactive activites outside of crafts but need your help! Do you hoola hoop, play games, perform or teach music, garden, do science projects, sew, or cook? If so why not share your skills with the neighborhood? The most important thing that moves this neighborhood program forward is community involvement!

We need to make sure that there are enough people in the community that care about this to keep it running. That means volunteer time. Last year went so well because I had unbelievable people who came out on Tuesdays to help prepare for projects, hang out with the kids, help make stuff and help clean up. That help is key! We would love your help this year.

We also rely on donations of supplies and money to keep this program afloat so if you would like to make a donation of any kind or want to offer up your time and ideas please contact Beth Barbush at ebarbush@gmail.com.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Newborn Ducklings!



That's right, four little ducklings. And you are correct, that is a White Orpington chicken that's raising them!

A month or so ago, one of our White Orpington chickens got a little broody, which means she didn't want to get off her eggs. This can be dangerous, as the hen sometimes stops taking care of herself, and it also pisses the other chickens off because she's always in the nesting box.

But if you're looking to hatch birds on your own, a broody chicken is just the thing. No worries about heat lamps or taking care of fertilized eggs. The hen does all the work.

In the video you can see how we set up the chicken coop to accommodate the hatching eggs and little ducklings (and by we I mean Chicken Man, I mostly provide the treats and do some cleaning for all the animals!)

I hope you enjoy! Please ignore the video turning sideways at the end there, for some reason when I shoot video vertically on my camera it shows up sideways and I don't know how to fix that.

(Also please ignore the low quality of my camera. I'm aiming to get a new one soon- any recommendations for a good point and shoot with a rechargeable lithium ion battery?)

I gave the chickens and Orpington a nice treat this morning of homemade chicken mash, thanks to a recipe I got from one of my favorite resource guides, The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery.


Carla recommended feeding the ducklings a mixture of cooked oats and some cooked eggs mixed with water, and greens that have been cut up with scissors. You can use non-medicated chick feed to feed the ducklings too, but we don't have any right now so I made the morning feed.

I used a mix of things we had around the house: oatmeal leftover from the Beet bulk food buying club, egg yolks from our many eggs, apple seconds that cost $3 a small bushel at the farmer's market and don't taste that great, and some chives growing in a pot on the back porch.

The the way, the apples in the background are more of the cut up apple seconds, those are bunny and chicken treats.

Homemade Duckling Feed

oatmeal
cooked egg
chopped apple (optional- if you have it)
Greens (Weeds are fine if they are young and tender, spinach, etc.)
Hot water

Mix all ingredients together in a heatsafe container. Pour hot water over the oatmeal and egg, and other optional grains or fruits until it is rather wet. Make sure everything is in small bits. Let cool a bit and add the chopped greens.

The recipe may seem like a bit of work, but a good idea is to make a big batch and keep it in some dedicated duckling feed containers in the fridge so you have it for the week.

I'll keep you all posted on the duckling news!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Specks and Keepings




Hillery Sproatt is a friend of mine here in Baltimore, with a lovely blog and website called Specks and Keepings.

She recently opened up a shop on her site, and since I am a customer and a fan, I let her know that I would do a recommendation post!

Several months ago I purchased one of her Bird & Horse mobiles which you can see below. The mobile is hanging in my bedroom and I look at it every day.

The things I own are generally more in the low-budget DIY style, so it's nice to add a bit of style that is well-crafted and elegant but still in a handmade and colorful way. I love the way it makes my home look.

I have serious photo envy of her blog too. She has such a good eye for images. If you want a bit of style inspiration, Specks & Keepings is a great place to visit!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

STEW FAIR tomorrow!


Making perogies at midnight last Monday. Why not?!

Apple fruit leather isn't the only homecooked local food coming out of the BaltimoreDIY kitchen this week to support some friends of mine. (Note the jars piled up in the background before drying!)

This Friday night is STEW FAIR, a Baltimore community dinner where organizations get to speak about their projects. All proceeds from the dinner support the presenting organizations. See the website for more details.

When coming up with a project for STEW, I looked around at my pantry. Dried mushrooms, pickled beets, and green onions were all on hand and accessible in reasonably large quantities to feed a crowd.

The big idea was to make pierogies so that the food could be held by hand. The filling mixture was a mix of the beets, mushrooms, and green onions. Here's a photo of the filling with the dough in mid-knead:


More instructions on how to knead pasta dough are posted in the "BaltimoreDIY Makes Pasta" post. See recipe for the dough below.

The nice thing is that you can't over knead pasta dough! Push the dough away with the heel of your hand, then pull the dough back into a ball and repeat. Every so often, fold the dough into thirds and then roll flat (as shown in photo above.)


In the end, it took me about three hours to make 44 pierogie! So there's no way I could make enough to serve 150 people at STEW FAIR.

So instead I baked four loaves of sourdough, to be served with the mushrooms, green onions, and beets as a kind of early spring bruschetta. Phew!

In any case, here's the recipe I used for the pierogies. I finally finished filling them at 12:30 a.m., so I have yet to cook and eat them! Can't wait to let you know how they taste.

Pierogie Dough

3 cups flour
3 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/4 melted butter
2 tsp salt

Mix salt into flour on the counter. Make a hollow in the middle of your flour pile and fill with eggs. Slowly mix flour into the eggs a little at a time. See photo above.

Knead dough 10 minutes, then roll as thin as possible.

Filling

Finely mince green onion and pickled red beets. Keep in separate bowls.

Simmer dried shitaake mushrooms in water and a little soy or worcestershire sauce. Turn off heat and soak for ten minutes. Cut off stems and mince. Reserve liquid.

Saute cooked mushrooms in butter on medium heat. After 5 minutes, add a splash of the mushroom liquid and simmer back down until filling is nearly dry. Turn off heat.

Mix in pickled beets and green onion.

Cut pierogie dough into circles.

Fill with a teaspoon of filling and crimp edges with a fork.

The pierogies can be frozen at this point, boiled in salty water and served with melted butter, or fried in butter.

A million thanks to my gardening partner Cheryl for being a great sous chef! You will be re-paid with buttery deliciousness.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Apple Jerky for Friends


Chilibrew #3 is this Sunday!

April 17th, 2011 noon to 4pm
Baltimore Free Farm
3510 Ash Street, Baltimore 21211


More details about this amazing homebrew beer and chili competition are posted below. So what's up with the photo of apple jerky above?

As part of Chilibrew's expansion into a full-fledged "Localize It" event, the Baltimore Foodmakers will be hosting a bake sale fundraiser. My contribution is going to be homemade apple jerky.

Each baking tray held about two pints of applesauce. I used non-stick tinfoil to line the trays and cooked them overnight at 170 on the convection oven setting. I was terrified the jerky would dry out but I think I caught it just in time! It's still nice and pliable.

The applesauce is home-canned, with no sugar added. Just apples and lemons! Last October I purchased a bushel of apple "seconds" for about $10. Seconds are apples that are a little bruised or damaged in some way, so most people don't want to buy them. But they are perfect for applesauce or other cooked apple dishes.

I canned up about ten pints last year and have mostly been baking apple-oatmeal breads and the like. Applesauce is a great canning project because it's so useful and can be made with the easier water-bath method, since the lemon juice and apples are acidic.

Chicken-Man and I have to be at a wedding in Florida so I unfortunately have to miss ChiliBrew (booo) but if you're around I know it's going to be a fantastic time! Plus you'll get to check out all the exciting happenings around the Baltimore Free Farm.

From the Chilibrew website:

Tell all your friends: it's time for another celebration of the DIY spirit! Brought to you by the BaltiBrew homebrew club and now the Baltimore Free Farm, the ChiliBrew is a charity homebrew competition and chili cookoff to benefit the Velocipede Bike Project and the Baltimore Free School.

We're asking for a $10-20 suggested donation, which will get you a ballot to vote on any or all of the competitions you want to taste: homebrew, veggie chili, and chili con carne (you must be 21 or older for homebrew of course). If you weigh in on the upper half of that sliding scale you'll also get a commemorative pint glass.


ChiliBrew website -> http://bmorecharmin.intuitwebsites.com/
Email us -> bmorecharmin@gmail.com

Related links:
"Localize It!" - http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=163711907021133
Free Farm - http://www.baltimorefreefarm.org/
BaltiBrew - http://www.baltibrew.org/
Velocipede - http://velocipedebikeproject.org/
Free School - http://freeschool.redemmas.org/
BNote - http://baltimoregreencurrency.org/
ChiliBrew Too! - http://whatweekly.com/2010/10/13/the-charmin-chilibrew/

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Kids Want Salads When They Visit a Garden


Yesterday I swung by the Boone St. garden to see if any of our radishes, carrots, peas, or beets have popped out of the ground yet. Nothing was up yet. To be honest, I think direct seeding is going to be really difficult the first year because the soil is very crusty and full of grass roots.

At least the seedlings should be more successful since they will already be established plants when we put them in the ground. We'll see!

So the seeds weren't up and there was a lot more trash blown around the site. On top of the Remington seeds not coming up, I've been getting kind of discouraged. Luckily two fourth grade girls rode up on their bikes and made my day.

(I didn't have a camera with me so I posted another photo of a kid-friendly gardening day hosted by Parks & People at the Gilmore housing projects last May.)

The girls at Boone St. yesterday were really excited to talk about gardening and gave me some ideas for things we could do with the produce. "You should donate it to poor people!" said one, and proceeded to tell me about her assignment to write about what she would do if she were the mayor of Baltimore.

"I want the first carrot!" said one of the girls as they watched me weed out the encroaching tentacles of grass growing up through the rows.

"All this talk about vegetables is making me want a salad." Awesome! I thought.

"The ones from McDonald's are really good." "So are the ones from Popeyes!"

Well... almost!

"Are you going to be here tomorrow?" they asked. No, I said. But I'll be here Saturday!

So even though we're struggling with getting the plants together right now, meeting the fourth graders gave me some extra encouragement that we're on the right path.

And as Cheryl said, if the seedlings totally fail, worst comes to worst we can purchase a few seedlings for the community garden.

What to do with all these eggs?


Late spring is a terrible time for seasonal food. The pantry full of canned goods and dry goods is running low, and the littlest of seedlings are just beginning to poke out of the ground.

At this time of year I've been thinking a lot about Easter, Passover, and other springtime rites. All of those holidays are about re-birth, but with an undertone of violence and death. Eating in season and waiting anxiously for the food crops to return makes you realize how scary and yet how hopeful early spring was in the days when people couldn't fly produce from warmer climates year round.

But one food that's going gangbusters here in the BaltimoreDIY household: Eggs!

Notice the connection between Easter/Passover again? Yes, in early spring as the days begin to get longer, all of the chickens have started laying on the regular. No more of that two to three egg per day stuff... right now we're getting half a dozen a day!

So what to do with all those eggs? At Mill Valley (soon to be the Baltimore Food Coop) last week I purchased some organic potatoes and spring onions. Potatoes can be stored for several months in a cool basement and spring onions are one of the earliest vegetables available right now. Quite seasonal indeed!

I also picked up some feta cheese during a visit to the Amish market. I didn't have any particular food plans in mind at the time, but last night I realized that the ingredients were perfect for an oven-baked egg frittata.

The ingredients listed below are a rough estimate. You can adjust the ingredients according to what's on hand and the size of frittata you want to make. I used one dozen eggs and poured the frittata in a 9 x 9 pan, which took one hour to bake at 375 degrees.

Early Spring Egg Frittata

Half a dozen small potatoes
Half a block of feta cheese
One dozen eggs
One bunch of green onions
salt and pepper to taste

1. Wash potatoes and clean the ends off the green onions.

2. Roast potatoes. You can even do this ahead of time and bake the potatoes while you're baking something else in the oven, like an applesauce oatmeal bread. Then you don't have to deal with chopping hot potatoes.

3. Dice cooked potatoes, feta cheese, and green onions. You are welcome to change these ingredients or add more or less of them as you see fit.

4. Break eggs into a large bowl. You are also welcome to add a cup or so of cream, half and half, or milk to the eggs if you like. Beat eggs well.

5. Add potatoes, feta, and green onions to the eggs and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste (be careful with the salt if you added feta already.)

6. Oil a 9 x 9 pan with olive oil. Pour in frittata "batter."

7. Bake at 375 degrees for one hour, or until the center of the frittata is firm and an inserted knife comes out clean.

Don't worry: to cut back on cholesterol, I used six egg whites and six whole eggs. Adjust as you like. If you've got chickens, you can mix the yolks back in with some cooked grains and feed it back to the chickens!

This frittata would work great for a grain-free Passover meal or an Easter brunch.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Boone St. Week #3: Starting Seeds



Well, this photo isn't great but I hope you can see how Cheryl and I have our seedling lights set up. The long lights are hanging from string beneath the table. So far here's the seedling list:

- marigolds
- tomatoes
- watermelon
- cucumber
- zucchini
- yellow squash
- peppers

So far the marigolds are doing the best. Too bad you can't eat them, but hopefully they will be great for pest resistance, bouquets, and even medicinal use in salves and other herbal products.

Of course, other crops like okra and greens will be direct seeded into the ground. So much more composting and tilling lies up ahead!

After the various rain showers and sunny weather today, I can't wait to swing by the little plot in Remington and see if seeds are finally coming up there.

I put in carrots, baby bok choy, swiss chard and peas about a month ago and so far nothing has come up save a few peas and what I think are the baby bok choy. Fingers crossed that I won't have to re-plant.

So, headed off on the little bike to enjoy this weather! Headed over to the Remington garden and then Heart's Place Shelter to help out with serving dinner tonight.

*** UPDATE ***

Yup, I'm going to have to re-plant the Remington garden plot. I rushed to get the seeds in the ground before we went to Belize, so I put them in the first week of March. Either that was too early, or I put way to much rabbit compost on the seeds and smothered them. Aargh.

There are about ten pea shoots coming up, and I'd like to triple that number. None of the carrot seeds that I planted from the seeds saved from last year came up. There are a couple of other sprouts but I didn't plant them in orderly rows and everything is all jumbled.

It's frustrating, especially because I'm already a little nervous for the plants to grow at Boone St. since I've got my expectations up, and this doesn't make me feel any better.

A personal goal is to stop worrying so much if I'm two weeks behind on the planting scheduling and not feel bad if there are great seedlings coming up in the plots next to mine.

After all, I do this because growing your own food is fun, right!
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