A Proper High Tea At Better Farm: Vegan Scones And Elderberry Jam

Shay (left) and Rachel show off their scones and elderberry jam.

Shay (left) and Rachel show off their scones and elderberry jam.

It was domestic bliss at Better Farm yesterday as sustainability students Shayna Jennings and Rachel Magathan did some preserving and baking to host a small tea time with Better Farm residents.

Utilizing elderberries picked locally last season (and kept frozen in a standing basement freezer), Rachel set about making the jam while Shay took charge on the scones. Within the hour, several people from the farm were enjoying a proper high tea outside. Here's how the ladies pulled it off.

Vegan Scones

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbs. vegan butter substitute
  • 2/3 c. coconut milk

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 425°F
  2. Put flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl; stir mix well Add vegan butter and cut in with a pastry blender or rub in with your fingers, until the mixture looks like fine granules.
  3. Add sugar; toss to mix.
  4. Add coconut milk and stir with a fork until dough forms.
  5. Form dough into a ball and turn smooth side up.
  6. Pat or roll into a 6-inch circle.
  7. cut each circle into six or eight wedges.
  8. place wedges on an ungreased cookie sheet—slightly apart for crisp sides, touching for soft.
  9. sprinkle desired amount of cinnamon and sugar on each scone.
  10. Bake about 12 minutes, or until medium brown on top.

Elderberry Jam

Ingredients

  • Elderberries, stripped from the stalk, washed and drained thoroughly
  • Juice of one lemon for every 3 oz. of elderberries (adjust accordingly)
  • Equal parts sugar-to-elderberry

Instructions

  1. Place the elderberries and lemon juice in a large pan and heat over a medium heat until the juices start to run. Bring slowly to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Skim off any scum and stems that rise to the surface.
  2. Add the sugar and stir it in until it’s completely dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 10 minutes until the jam reaches setting point.

Two things to note here: the jam will bubble up so you do need to use a big pan (a preserving pan, if you have one). To know when the jam has set, put a saucer into the freezer and after 10 minutes, spoon a blob onto a cold saucer. Leave it for 10–15 seconds, then push with your finger. If it has formed a skin and wrinkles when you push, it has reached setting point.

Elderberry jam recipe from Gin and Crumpets.

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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Iron Chef: Zucchini

Clockwise from top: Zucchini stuffed with lentil-walnut pate (vegan cheese topper); string beans in vegan cream of mushroom glaze, cucumber-zucchini-corn salad, boca slider, and zucchini-mushroom-olive-jalapeno pizza.
We've canned, frozen, pickled, sold, and eaten fresh hundreds of pounds of food this summer already; but to celebrate our recent abundant harvest of zucchini and other fresh veggies (aquaponic lettuce, anyone?!) we decided to host an "Iron Chef" cookoff Friday at Better Farm.

With zucchini as the secret ingredient, we tasked contestants with coming up with dishes featuring the flavorful vegetable. Here's what they brought to the table:

The Menu
  • Zucchini-Cucumber Salad with Lemon Juice and Corn (Holly Boname)
  • Zucchini Stuffed with Lentil-Walnut Pate (Nicole Caldwell)
  • Sliders featuring Locally Sourced Beef (or Boca burger), Aquaponic Lettuce, Tomatoes, Cucumber, and Zucchini Slices (Nicole Caldwell)
  • Homegrown String Beans in Vegan Cream of Mushroom Glaze (Matt Smith)
  • Zucchini, Jalapeno, Mushroom, and Olive Pizza (Nick Bellman)
Every ingredient came directly out of Better Farm's gardens (exceptions: lemon juice, lentils, walnuts, mushrooms, soy milk, homemade pizza dough, cheese and olives). Here's the spread:




It was too tricky to pick a winner, so we just ate until we couldn't take another bite. Stay tuned for the next round!

For any of the above-listed recipes, e-mail us at info@betterfarm.org.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

On Location: Sing-a-long sendoff

Before arriving at Better Farm, interns- and artist residents-to-be often call and write to us with one question above all others: What's it like there? Sure, they know they're going to work hard, live communally, get their hands dirty, and meet lots of new people. But they often seem most curious about what it's like on a day-to-day basis around here. What do you guys do for fun? What's the atmosphere like?


Brian Purwin, left, and Bob Laisdell.
So on Better Farm's blog, I'm often trying to paint as accurate a picture as possible about the diverse ecosystem that is Better Farm. It's certainly an unusual place, where perfect strangers collide in a big old farmhouse waaaaaay off the beaten path and become like family. Case in point: intern Maylisa Daniels' send-off gathering Sunday night, an event speckled with former artists-in-residence, lodgers, friends from town, and yours truly. The evening started with one of our famous "family dinners" at the big kitchen table (featuring pasta with homemade sauce utilizing the last of our garden tomatoes that had been blanched and frozen back in October), then turned into a good old-fashioned sing-a-long party. Brian Purwin and I traded off on the piano, Brian played a mean fiddle too, and everyone lent their voices.


Knowing this sort of thing is exactly what future visitors to the farm are curious about, I grabbed my camera so that I could share this experience with anyone who's ever wondered what really goes on around this place. Here are the ladies doing a little "Let it Be":



And our MVP of the evening, Maylisa, doing "Summertime":


Warmest wishes to Maylisa as she goes on to make her mark in the world! To learn more about Better Farm and its programming or to schedule a visit, click here.

Spotlight On: Dinnerlist

We got an e-mail the other day from Faye Hess, a professional chef living down in New York City, inviting us to take part in her latest project called Dinnerlist:

Hi, I am a professional cook living in NYC (my main gig is teaching cooking in Tuscany) and I am working to get people to connect through their food. At the moment I'm trying to figure out how to get people in NYC to post what they had for dinner with those who farm upstate so that each of us has a better sense of how we live, how we eat, and how we can help each other. For us down here in the city, I think it could be a first step to feeling personally connected to farms upstate.
When I think of farming, or group living, I think of how we eat and what we eat as being an important part of it. If you created a "dinnerlist (group)" for Better Farm, you could post menus, which I imagine coincide with what's available locally, seasonally. If members of the surrounding community joined the Better Farm dinnerlist, my hope is that it might be one more way for them to feel connected to Better Farm—even be inspired to eat locally, seasonally, and communally, themselves. It could also be a way for members that come and go to stay in touch by posting what they are now eating wherever the world has taken them, and to be reminded of their meals at Redwood.
We dutifully took a look at the Dinnerlist site and joined right away. Care to join us? You can post anything you're eating, get and share great recipes, post video, create photo albums, and even live-blog right on the site. If you join, be sure to let us know so we can take this on together! We'll start posting early next week. Happy eating!
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Better Farm's 2012 Sustainability Internship Features New Initiatives

Better Farm's sustainability internship program has since its inception in 2010 welcomed a dozen individuals from all over the world to join us in our efforts to live more in tandem with natural earth systems. Whether building raised beds, wiring for solar panels, implementing a rainwater harvesting system, serving the community, or gardening organically, our internship program has equipped people of all ages and backgrounds with practical skills they can bring back to their hometowns and neighborhoods to continue their journeys and inspire their friends and families to incorporate natural earth systems into their daily routines.

We will continue all those initiatives into 2012, and plan to expand our organic herb, flower, fruit, and vegetable gardens. We'll also be revamping certain elements of the 2012 season to include (check back on the application page for more updates in the coming weeks!):


  • Poultry Care—We plan to participate in the New York State DEC's Day-Old Pheasant Chick Program, which means Better Farm's interns will try their hand at raising chicks, monitoring their health, and releasing them into the wild when they are eight weeks old. We will also be adding some more hens to our chicken flock!
  • New Workshops!—Knitting, sauna construction, rainwater-fed outdoor showers, earthships, and DIY chicken coops are just some of the on-site workshops we're slating in 2012. Stay tuned for specific dates!
  • Tree Planting Initiatives—We will be continuing our work to plant several hundred black walnut trees on the property here, and will be expanding our planting efforts by linking up with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's School Seedling Program, which would provide interns here with 50 seedlings to nurture and grow. 
  • Farm to Table—Better Farm's interns will put on one large farm-to-table dinner party in September, and work throughout the summer to integrate home-grown, local food into soup kitchens, supper clubs, and local restaurants. Our interns will also make strides in researching and designing our budding delivery CSA program, due to launch in 2015.
  • Homesteading Tips—We're going to team the 2012 interns up with seasoned locals to learn about canning, freezing, living off the land, and more. Stay tuned for the weekly rotating schedule!
  • Dragonfly Surveying Initiative—Better Farm has volunteered to survey dragonflies on the property during peak summer months and submit that data to a statewide dragonfly and damselfly survey. Information collected by interns here will help guide conservation activities beneficial to those species that are in greatest need of such efforts.
  • Better Farm's 2012 Local Farm Outreach Program—In 2012, we'll be upping our community outreach efforts to include local farms. Our interns will spend all or part of one day each week at a different local farm to learn about the processes involved with milking dairy cows, grooming horses, raising alpacas, harvesting maple syrup, rearing bees, and more.
  • Festival Season Participation—Better Farm's interns will help coordinate, organize, and present at the summer festivals in the North Country, including: Redwood's First Annual Dandelion Wine Festival, the Keith Brabant Memorial Music Scholarship Festival, North Country Arts Council's Summer Arts Festival, and more.
We'll continue updating you with our plans as we get closer to spring! To learn more about Better Farm's sustainability internship program or to apply, click here.

Gourmet Vegetarian Winter Recipes

Recipes originally published at Mercy For Animals website.

Wheatmeat Roulade With Chestnut "Sausage" Stuffing
For the Wheatmeat Roulade:
  • 1 package Harvest Direct seitan Quick Mix (or 1/3 lb. instant gluten flour mixed with water)
  • 1/2 cup (100 ml) soy sauce
  • Chestnut "Sausage" Stuffing (recipe follows)
For the Chestnut "Sausage" Stuffing:
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. dried sage
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 small loaf whole-grain bread, diced
  • 1 package (200 g) cooked vegetarian sausage, crumbled
  • 1 cup (240 g) cooked shelled chestnuts (fresh or canned)
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp.) minced parsley
For the Wheatmeat Roulade:
Prepare the seitan mix according to the package directions. After kneading, place the raw seitan in a shallow bowl and marinate in the soy sauce for several hours or overnight. Roll out the raw seitan with a rolling pin until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Spread the surface of the seitan with stuffing. Roll up in a "jelly roll" fashion and place seam side down in an oiled, shallow baking pan. Pierce with a fork in several places. Add 1/2 cup water to the soy sauce used to marinate the seitan and pour over the roulade for basting. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes, basting every 10 minutes. The roulade is done when the surface is browned and glossy. Cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices and serve with mushroom gravy.

For the Chestnut "Sausage" Stuffing:
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, covered, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme, sage, salt and pepper and stir well to combine. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add the bread, vegetarian sausage, chestnuts and parsley. Mix well. If the mixture is too dry, add a small amount of water or vegetable stock and adjust the seasonings to taste. The stuffing is now ready to be used in recipes, or transfer it to a casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Makes 6 to 8 servings.



Citrus Coconut-Kabocha Bisque (Courtesy of Christy Morgan, author of Blissful Bites)
Ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 medium kabocha squash, seeded and cubed
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 5 or more cups filtered water
  • 1 can (13½ ounces) coconut milk
  • Pinch white pepper
  • Fresh herbs, for garnish
  • Sea salt, to taste
Heat oil in medium stockpot. Sauté the kabocha with sea salt for about three minutes, covered, stirring occasionally. Add a little water if the kabocha starts to stick to the pan. Add orange zest and juice. Sauté for two more minutes. Add water and coconut milk and bring to boil. Simmer until kabocha is very soft (about 20 minutes). Purée with immersion blender right in the pot or in batches in a regular blender (return to pot when finished blending). Add pepper and sea salt to taste. Serve hot garnished with herbs. Makes 7 to 8 servings.


Radicchio Salad with Figs & Pomegranates (Courtesy of Claudia Pillow, author of The Gluten-Free Good Health Cookbook)

  • 1 radicchio, washed and torn into small pieces
  • 1 small curly endive lettuce, washed and torn into small pieces
  • 2 navel oranges (medium size), peeled and cut into segments
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced into rings
  • 8 small fresh figs, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh ginger
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 2 pomegranates, sliced and seeds scooped out
  • 1 3.5 ounce bag pecan halves
In salad bowl, place radicchio, endive, orange segments, onion and figs. In small food processor or bowl, combine oil, vinegar, cinnamon, orange juice and ginger. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour vinaigrette over salad and toss lightly. Top with pomegranates and pecans. Serve immediately. Serves 4.


Green Beans with Fresh Cranberries
  • 1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut on the diagonal
  • 2 Tbsp. vegan margarine
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1 clove garlic, minced and pressed
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh tarragon, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the beans and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander and hold under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Blot the beans with a paper towel to remove the excess water. Put the beans into a dry skillet and heat over medium heat until the remaining moisture on the beans evaporates. Stir in the margarine, cranberries, garlic, parsley, tarragon, salt, and pepper, tossing to coat well. Cook until heated through. Makes 4 servings.


Raw Pumpkin Pie (Courtesy of Susan O'Brien, Founder of Hail Merry)

Crust:
  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates (presoaked for 1 hour in water and drained)
  • Dash of sea salt
Blend the crust ingredients in a high-speed blender or food processor, then evenly distribute in the bottom of a pie plate.
Filling:
  • 2 cups shredded pumpkin, butternut squash, or sweet potato flesh
  • 1 cup pitted dates (presoaked for 1 hour in water and drained)
  • 1/2 cup soaked, thoroughly-washed Irish Moss
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly diced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
Cut the pumpkin into 1-inch cubes and place in a high-speed blender (Vitamix) or food processor until finely shredded or chopped. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Add more almond milk if necessary. Batter should be creamy. Pour into crust and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving.
 
Note: Roulade photo courtesy of veganyumyum.com
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Pizza is a Vegetable and other Offenses to Food Groups

Image from Drunk Tiki
In case you've recovered from the debilitating reality of how corporate interests have shaped public food policy in America (ahem, USDA Food Pyramid), here's another shock to the system:

Pizza is now a vegetable.

Yup, really.

Screaming headlines last week everywhere from the Huffington Post to Fox News decried Congress' new bill that would label the tomato paste in personal pizzas doled out in lunchroom cafeterias across the country as a serving of vegetables.

Congress' proposition was that pizza and French fries remain school lunch staples—in spite of standards proposed by the Agriculture Department earlier in 2011 that would have limited the use of potatoes, put restrictions on sodium, and boosted whole grains.

Makes you wonder who Congress is actually working for.

Forget that a tomato isn't a vegetable to begin with (it's a fruit), check out the full list of ingredients in a 4x6 lunchroom personal pizza, as is distributed by ConAgra to thousands of schools countrywide.


Yum, no?

So where can we turn for good information about good food? Common sense. Eat vegetables and fruits as much as you can. Make as much of your own food as you can. Choose whole grains and beans over processed wheat. Buy local. And for more good, common-sense ideas, refer to this list, gleaned from Michael Pollan's book Food Rules:
  1. Eat food.
  2. Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
  3. Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry.
  4. Avoid food products that contain high-fructose corn syrup.
  5. Avoid foods that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients.
  6. Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients.
  7. Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.
  8. Avoid food products that make health claims.
  9. Avoid food products with the wordoid “lite” or the terms “low-fat” or “nonfat” in their names.
  10. Avoid foods that are pretending to be something they are not.
  11. Avoid foods that you see advertised on television.
  12. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.
 Now that's food for thought.
4 Comments

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Winter Soup Recipes as Late-Fall Crops Take Center Stage

Brussels sprouts mature under a late-October sun. Photo/Nicole Caldwell
Our trip out to the garden today was significantly shorter than in recent weeks, with far fewer crops to choose from. Tomatoes (except for a few brave, hardy cherries), peppers, salad greens, and even squashes have run their course; leaving rows and rows of composted plant matter turning to dirt over old hay and cardboard.

Thanks to our rotating planting season and several great picks for autumnal veggies (gotta love those summer interns!), we've probably got another month's worth of leeks and celery, and the cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are still coming in strong. Our new intern May, Brian Hines (newly back from Afghanistan!) and I gathered enough to make plenty of delicious soups over the next few days:

Cauliflower
Pumpkin
May and Brian show off, from left to right, leeks, an earthworm, more leeks, and an enormous celery plant.
Here are a couple great  soup recipes you can whip up with the ingredients blossoming now in your garden:
Quick and Easy Potato-Leek Soup
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
2 Leeks
4 Potatoes (any kind will work!)
6 to 8 cups Vegetable Broth or Water (with spices of your choice and/or bouillon cubes)

Cut the leeks and potatoes up and throw them in a saucepan with the olive oil. Saute until leeks  soften, about 5 minutes. Add the broth (water should cover the top of the potatoes and leeks). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are as soft as you like them. You can use a stick blender or food processor to combine everything, or just eat as-is.

Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup
(from Urban Organic Gardener)
1 1/2 small heads of cauliflower (or one large)
1 leek the bottom white and light green part
5-6 cloves of garlic
3-4 cups veggie broth
Tablespoon of olive oil
Dash of sea salt

Chop up cauliflower and put into bowl. Smash the garlic cloves. Slice up leeks and smashed garlic and put into bowl with cauliflower. Pour olive oil over the veggies with salt and toss to coat. Put on a baking sheet into the oven at about 425 degrees for 40-45 minutes until they start to brown. Heat the saucepan with some olive oil and put roasted veggies in. Cover with veggie broth. Allow to boil. Either use a hand blender and blend down in the pan or add to food processor to blend down until smooth. Transfer to bowl and top with leek and garlic pieces.

Pumpkin Soup
(From About.com)
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

1 tablespoon margarine
1 onion, diced
16 oz. pumpkin puree
1 1/3 cups vegetable broth
3 cups soy milk
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, cook the onion in the margarine for 3-5 minutes, until onion turns clear. Add remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Cook over medium heat for another 10-15 minutes. Enjoy!
Makes 4 servings of vegetarian pumpkin soup.

Got a great fall recipe to share? E-mail them to us at info@betterfarm.org.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

How to Blanch Tomatoes

Blanching equipment. Photo/Nicole Caldwell
'Tis the season for harvesting the last rush of produce in the garden before the onslaught of chilly (read: freezing!) weather. While the celery, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and leeks are in it for the long haul, our more sensitive produce like tomatoes have called it quits and needed to be plucked before they succumbed to the cold North Country climate. But what to do with all those romas?

One option is to make a bunch of sauce and can it—a project photographer-in-residence Erin Fulton took on about a month ago. The other choice is to blanch and freeze the tomatoes, then access them throughout the winter for sauces or soups. This is a much faster process than cooking all the sauce and canning it—so for the impatient among you, I'd say this is a much more obvious choice. Follow these easy instructions, and you're well on your way to having yummy, garden-fresh tomatoes all winter long.

What You Need:
Two large pots
Lots of roma tomatoes
A slotted spoon
A sharp knife
Freezer bags

How to Blanch:

1. Bring a pot of water to boil.
2. Fill a separate, large bowl with cold water and ice.
2. Remove stems from each tomato.
3. Make a shallow cut in the shape of an x on the bottom of each tomato with a knife.
4. Drop tomatoes in water and boil for about a minute; once the skin starts to peel back, they are done.  The point is not to cook them so watch the tomatoes closely.
5. Remove tomatoes immediately and "shock" them in the ice water.
6. You will now be able to easily remove the skin of the tomatoes—just pull the skins off by hand!
7. Compost the skins and bag the tomatoes in freezer bags, Get all the air out of the bags, label them, and put them in the freezer.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

DIY Pizza Oven: Part I of II

A pizza oven design similar to the one we've cooked up at Better Farm. Photo from Instructables.com.
We were lucky enough to have staff member-at-large Tyler Howe stay full-time at Better Farm for the month of August. That meant no computer breakdowns for anyone in the house (or the hamlet of Redwood, for that matter), higher morale as we wound down the summer session of internships and artist residencies, and the ground-breaking for Better Farm's homemade, wood-burning pizza oven.

Tyler's a handy guy, but he's never built a pizza oven before; so there was a lot of research involved before he set the first spade into the ground. Any construction projects in the North Country have to take into account frost heave, heavy winds, extreme temperature ranges, and six months (on average) of winter. Piece of cake!

To start, Tyler staked out the 6' x 6' spot on the lawn where the pizza oven would go and he (with the help of intern Soon Kai Poh) dug a couple of feet down into the ground:

Into the dug hole went drainage gravel to help combat the floodlike waters of early spring, and to secure the pizza oven's base. Then it was time to set nine 2x2 pavers down in a square:

After letting them settle for a day or two, Tyler pushed some sand between the cracks and used a level to make sure the oven's bottom was sitting flat. Then it was time to build the base. This involved finding someone on Craigslist who was getting rid of a bunch of rock. This turned out to not be a problem; which makes me wonder just how different the 1970 Better Farm crew's stories might have been had they not decided to spend the better part of a week driving around in a pickup truck, collecting rocks for the addition on the house:
Putting in the library, 1970.
One trip to pick up the rocks was all it took (thanks to Jaci Collins, Eric Drasin, Soon Kai Poh, and Tyler for making that trip, and David Garlock for lending me the pickup to do the work with), and Tyler set to work piling them up into a horseshoe shape:
Han Solo and I inspect Tyler's work.
The Man.
Note the various levels of rock and sand:
To stabilize his creation, Tyler lined the inside with cinder blocks before laying down another set of pavers on top of the whole thing. The wood will be stored in the space between.
Left to do:
  • Lay a hearth stone on top of the pavers
  • Construct the dome with fire brick and mortar
Stay tuned for Part II of this project!

For more information about this project, please e-mail tyler.howe@betterfarm.org.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Ones to Watch: Brooklyn Farms


Dear old friend to Better Farm Marco Centola is part of an exciting initiative in Brooklyn to encourage people to grow their own food, compost, and eat locally. Brooklyn Farms, a hydroponic superstore in Cobble Hill, is expanding to include a consulting and installation firm, a learning center where they'll teach less-fortunate city kids how to grow food, and a hydroponic community garden where people can rent a small plot and come garden year-round.

"Being a sustainability center," says Marco, "we plan on running most of our electricity off solar and wind power and we want to offer composting for the community. The business model is being put together as we speak."

Marco recently launched an installation at his other place of business, The Brooklyn Kitchen, so the restaurant can grow its own herbs for its recipes:
From our herb garden, you can pick up hydroponically grown basil, mint, sage or thyme: cut to order and sold by weight. Buy just what you need, so you don’t have to store or toss unused herbs! And watch as we expand our selection to include lovage, thai basil and more! Long associated with the more (ahem) illicit side of agriculture, hydroponic gardening is also a fairly practical way to grow your own food, a very gratifying activity too often unavailable to city folk. There are so many crops you can grow hydroponically, even exotic edibles that aren’t normally native to our region, that your garden will quickly pay for itself in saved grocery store costs.
Stay tuned for partnership information between Brooklyn Farms and Better Farm including workshops, free tips, information on building your own hydroponic garden, community outreach initiatives, and more. And feel free to e-mail Marco with any questions you have about hydroponics.
Comment

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Sweet Tooth

Sugar Intake Averages (click image for larger viewing size)

High Fructose Corn Syrup Intake Averages (click image for larger viewing size).
There's been a lot of finger-pointing at the demonized high fructose corn syrup (H.F.C.S.) as of late; and, we think, for good reason.

But would you believe that corn syrup is just as harmful as sugar?

That's exactly what some experts are suggesting. Check out this tidbit from an April 13 New York Times Magazine piece:
Refined sugar (that is, sucrose) is made up of a molecule of the carbohydrate glucose, bonded to a molecule of the carbohydrate fructose — a 50-50 mixture of the two... High-fructose corn syrup, as it is most commonly consumed, is 55 percent fructose, and the remaining 45 percent is nearly all glucose. It was first marketed in the late 1970s and was created to be indistinguishable from refined sugar when used in soft drinks. Because each of these sugars ends up as glucose and fructose in our guts, our bodies react the same way to both, and the physiological effects are identical.
The article goes on to suggest that rather than the commonly held belief it's eating too much sugar that's so bad, sugar in and of itself is toxic. And consuming it the way we do is literally killing us.

Read the full article here. For high fructose corn syrup propaganda, click here.
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Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.

Eating Healthier at Better Farm

Learning to eat healthy is a big change for someone who used to eat fast food every day. Switching from eating BK Stackers to Boca Burgers; from boxed or canned food to fresh veggies and fruit; from drinking more than a 12-pack of soda daily to juice and water: Changes like these help a person lose weight and feel better mentally and physically.

I recently went back to Iowa for a family reunion and party for friends I hadn't seen in a while. I made a healthy dish for each; ones that were simple but delicious. I was nervous about making the food, but they were a hit! Check out my recipes after the jump.

Brussels Sprouts and Asparagus
1 cup asparagus
2 cups brussels sprouts
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, diced
Lemon juice and sea salt to taste
Serves 4

Cut the stems off the brussels sprouts and chop them in half. Cut the last 1/2 inch from the asparagus. Add them to the skillet. Once browned, add the sun-dried tomatoes and season everything with the lemon juice and salt. 

Spinach and Tomato-Basil Wraps
4 spinach wraps
1 Tomato, sliced
4-6 large pieces of lettuce or spinach, chopped
Spicy and honey mustard, to taste
Serves 4

Spread the mustard thinly on wraps. Add lettuce and tomatoes, and roll. Cut into thirds and secure with toothpicks.

Eating healthy is hard, and switching over takes a lot of commitment and support. I know one of my problems was not knowing exactly what would go well with what. I'm learning new recipes daily and enjoy seeing what other people choose as a favorite. Feel free to leave comments with your own favorite recipes—we're always looking to try new things out at the Farm!

Until next time,
Take care and live happy and healthy!