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.

Sustainability Students Forage Edible Wilds For A Forest-To-Table Meal

Sustainability Students Forage Edible Wilds For A Forest-To-Table Meal

Better Farm's sustainability students last week foraged wild edible plants on the property for a farm-to-table meal.

Nina, Steph and Levi headed out into the woods, fields, and pond to find cattail, nettles, burdock and thistle for inclusion in Vietnamese pho, a traditional noodle soup.

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Week-Long Workshops Planned Next Week For G4G Revival Tour: Outdoor Compost Toilets, Rainwater Showers, And Green Building Galore June 27-July 3

The amenities station that will be installed next to the Art Barn at Better Farm.

The amenities station that will be installed next to the Art Barn at Better Farm.

Better Farm welcomes Grateful 4 Grace from June 27-July 3 for a week of green-building projects, team-building and workshops.

Grateful 4 Grace is a non-profit group traveling all over the country to offer helping hands on projects that further a sustainable mission. From their website:

Combining our love for humanity and the love we have for our planet, we have set out to help others help others become more consciously sustainable. With the universe as our guide we plan to gather in effort to grow our sustainable-minded collective consciousness that will produce what we consider to be a balanced environment that all species can live harmoniously with. To accomplish this we are traveling across the world helping intentional communities and organizations that are currently helping with similar causes become self-sustainable. 

Twenty people from Grateful 4 Grace will be staying at Better Farm to help us construct an amenities station next to the Art Barn with compost toilets and solar showers fed by rainwater.  We will additionally be constructing a smaller version of the amenities station next to our new solar-powered tiny home, greywater filtration units, and working on other farm-related projects throughout the week.

The public is invited to help us on this project and gain valuable hands-on experience in construction, green building, sustainability, and alt-energy concepts. To sign up, just email info@betterfarm.org. Lunch and refreshments will be provided!

Volunteers are welcome to join us from Tuesday, June 28, through Saturday, July 2, at Better Farm between the hours of 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Overnight Outdoor Survival Course Coming To Better Farm This July

NO TENTS. NO SLEEPING BAGS. NO EXCUSES.

Test your toughness at an overnight survival camping excursion Saturday, July 30, that will test your might as you utilize primitive fire-building techniques, construct a shelter, learn navigation skills, forage for edible wild plants, field-dressing and prepare wild game, and much much more!

Course instructor is Scott Smith, a seasoned Army veteran with 27 years experience in the infantry and more than four years serving as a US Army ranger instructor.

Course starts at 10 am Saturday, July 30. Extraction from the wilderness will be 10 am Sunday, July 31, with a celebratory, farm-to-table breakfast at Better Farm. COST: $73, includes Army-issued survival manual and Survivor T-Shirt. All skill levels welcome!

This workshop is limited to 15 students. To register, click here. To see our full list of upcoming events, click here.

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.

betterArts Presents 'Vino & Van Gogh' Adult Painting Class April 14

betterArts presents the next installment in its adult paint 'n' sip series, "Vino & Van Gogh", from 7-9 p.m. Thursday, April 14, at Better Farm.

This class will feature a Vincent Van Gogh theme playing on an image of a tree with swirls, texture and movement. Instructor Maria VanPelt (LaFargeville Central School) will guide students from start to completion using acrylics on canvas.

As always, all materials will be provided and students will be able to enjoy bottomless wine and finger foods.

Cost for this class is $30. To sign up, CLICK HERE.

This class will be held in the betterArts Art Barn at Better Farm, 31060 Cottage Hill Road, Redwood, NY, 13679. For further information, email info@betterarts.org or call (315) 482-2536.

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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.

Tiny Home Construction Workshop Part I: Aug. 8-9

Tiny Home Construction Workshop Part I: Aug. 8-9

Have you been daydreaming about having your very own tiny home, but aren't sure where to start? Learn all about materials, construction, different alt-energy systems and much more at Better Farm's Tiny Home Construction Workshop Part I during two days, Aug. 8 and 9.

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Harvesting Rain: How to Collect Gallons of Water for Your Garden

Harvesting Rain: How to Collect Gallons of Water for Your Garden

Originally published by Martha Stewart Living

With just a few basic materials and a roofline, you can collect rainwater for garden irrigation. This gravity-fed system uses no pumps or electricity and can be installed in minutes. Dress up your rain barrel however you like for a real conversation piece!

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All-Ages Paper Bag Notebook Workshop with Alyssa Curley This Saturday!

Instructor Alyssa Curley of AlternARTive will kick off this year's Better Festival at 12 p.m. this Saturday, June 20, with an all-ages workshop (5+) that will walk students through the creation of a notebook made entirely out of paper products.

Participants may bring any special paper they may have to make the project more personal. The workshop is held at Better Farm, 31060 Cottage Hill Road, Redwood. To pre-register, email info@betterarts.org.

 12 p.m. Free. All Ages (5+). Hosted by betterArts. For more information about the ensuing festival, click here. Better Farm is located at 31060 Cottage Hill Road, Redwood.

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.

Beginner's Guide to Growing Tomatoes

By Jane Blanchard

Gardeners often hear tales of woe regarding how fickle and hard to grow tomatoes can be. It’s no wonder that many beginners steer clear, often missing out on a delightful harvest of one of earth’s most versatile fruits. Growing tomatoes takes time and care, but they can grow almost anywhere. Don’t let the rumors about tomato gardening scare you away, these tips will help you gather a bountiful harvest year after year.

Via lettucebehealthy.com

Beginners should plant seedlings instead of trying to start the plant from seed. When choosing your seedling, don’t be fooled by a lush green plant. Always check the root system and look for strong, healthy roots. Choose seedlings without flowers on them and pinch off any flowers that you may see. Don’t try to plant tomato seedlings until the soil has reached 50 degrees fahrenheit, consistently. This thermometer is just $8.99 and will help you get an accurate reading and know when it’s safe to plant.

Plant your seedlings deep into the ground, “up to their necks” as midwestern farmers would say. This means burying the stems all the way up to the first full leaves. You’ll find allowing them to grow strong deep roots is invaluable to their growth. You may have noticed tomato plants’ tell-tale growing stakes. This is to support the weight of the plant should it grow 3 or 4 feet high. Place the stake a few inches from your seedling on the north side of your sprout. It will prevent the stake from shading your plant. The pole should be around 4 feet taller than the seedling and don’t worry about attaching it with ties until you see the first flowers. When you do see flowers, use rope to tie the stem to the stake and keep it upright and supported.

One expert tip is to use epsom salt as a natural fertilizer. Just dissolve 2 tablespoons into each gallon of water and use the solution at least once a month. When it comes to waterings, you should water your plants deeply but not often. Once every week should be good, or every five days at the height of summer. When your first fruit is ripening, add compost or mulch to your plant’s base to encourage more growth. Prune off any non-flowering branches.

Try to water your tomato plants from above the plant. You want to avoid the stems being soaked in water. When the stems become damp, disease and mold has the opportunity to attack your plant. If you do discover a stem mold, commonly referred to as blight, you can use an organic fungicide to be more environmentally friendly. 

Harvesting your tomatoes at just the right time is essential to having a satisfying crop. Most tomatoes will be ready for picking about 60-85 days after the seedling was planted. You may continue to enjoy a crop from your garden all the way until frost. You will know that your tomato is ripe when the fruit has turned one solid color. For example, for a red varietal, if you notice that the fruit is all red except one shaded spot is still yellow, it’s not ready. It should be just a little bit soft when squeezed. Once you notice these identifying traits, go ahead and pluck your tomatoes. Once pulled off the vine, tomatoes no longer have a source of oxygen, so you may only have a week or so before they go bad. Contrary to popular belief fresh tomatoes are not well stored in the fridge. If you need to keep your tomatoes for any period of time, core them and store them in a freezer. Thaw them out when you’re ready and turn them into an amazing sauce or bloody mary mix.

For more tips and tricks, head to Modernize.com.

No-Till Mulch Gardening for the Home Garden or Small Farm

No-Till Mulch Gardening for the Home Garden or Small Farm

If you're looking for a green thumb to get some gardening advice from, have I got a suggestion for you. I know a lady who is easily the most intimidating gardener I know: Mother Nature. She's overseen the prolific growth of forests the world over, coral reefs, open plains, feathered brush and waving grasses. A little secret about her methods: She's used a no-till, no-plow, pesticide- and herbicide-free approach for all time.

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