Thursday, August 26, 2010

Turns out I was wrong.

Today's eggs - can you tell which one is ceramic?
Rather than hunting for eggs each day, a ceramic egg teaches chickens where to lay.

Last week when writing about the recent egg issues, I stated "I believe there are many checks in our current food system to keep food as safe as possible."  Well, turns out I'm wrong in this case, although the FDA is implementing more stringent requirements for egg safety (and planned to prior to this outbreak).  Earlier this week, the Wichita Eagle listed this egg farms' past violations.  I felt even more disgusted after learning the shady history of one of the farms in a Food Consumer article.  Looks like there have been problems since before 1980 - ugh. And to think, thousands of innocent people, food service operations, and farmers who produce safe eggs, have been impacted by their carelessness.

A recent NY Times op-ed titled "Math Lessons for Locavores" seems to completely miss the point of locavorism.  Most of the article is focused on the view that local eating is energy taxing on our earth and land.  What the author fails to realize is that individuals who choose local foods do so for many reasons other than energy savings.  Look at the Love Local Food blog description...inspiring people to choose locally produced foods to keep money in our local economy, help local food producers (i.e. create local jobs), and impact our health (when is the last time you saw Twinkies at the farmers' market, and who needs dessert when you've got great tasting produce?) 

And, don't forget, eating locally spreads the risk of food safety.  What if the individuals in the 20+ states affected were buying eggs from producers in their own states, or community, rather than from two farms in Iowa?  (I know, the big industry folks say enough eggs couldn't be produced by small farms, I've heard the arguments.)  Sure, they could get food poisoning from eggs from a local producer, but a much smaller number of individuals would be affected because all the eggs would not be coming from one or two locations.  So, add smaller outbreaks of food borne illness to the list of reasons to eat locally.

Chicken Update:  When reading about the problems with eggs, I learned chickens ingest rodent droppings, which causes them to lay eggs with salmonella inside the egg.  Monday I went out to feed our ladies and alas, I found rodent droppings in my bag of feed.  So, this food safety inspector and egg production employee purchased a mouse trap.  Nope, no salmonella in my eggs, thank you very much (I caught him).  How's that for control over the food system?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Fabulous Wichita Organic Garden Club

I love a good pot-luck.

Tonight this pregnant gal ate well, really well.  Chris and I attended the Wichita Organic Garden Club's annual picnic.  Not only did we eat outstanding food, but the view of a member's garden gave us visions of the possibilities for our own backyard.  Beautiful and healthy...what a combination!

The Organic Garden Club is made up of interesting and incredibly knowledgeable individuals who are (almost all) passionate about gardening.  I say "almost all", because precious Sylvia, the club president's wife, does not garden.  Tonight I asked her how to recognize a ripe sweet pumpkin, which was part of the dish she prepared.  She replied, "I don't know, they just show up in my kitchen."  So, I encourage you to attend a garden club meeting sometime, whether you like to garden, or just like to eat the organic produce you find at the farmers' market.  You'll meet wonderful people and hear about interesting topics related to growing produce using organic methods.  Monthly meetings are free and open to the public.

If you're interested in getting connected, visit the Wichita Organic Garden Club website and contact Mel, the president.  (Mel would be able to tell me how to pick a ripe sweet pumpkin!)  Or, send me an email and I'll get you linked into the group. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Hundreds believed sickened by tainted eggs."

Our chickens have become productive!

As I sat at my computer earlier today, the CNN headline about a recent food illness issue involving eggs caught my attention.  I thought, "I sure am glad I get my eggs from the back yard."  The beauty of raising your own food is that you know pretty much everything about it.  This knowledge includes:
  • how it's raised (what it's fed, what's sprayed on it, when it's picked, etc., etc., etc.)
  • if it's treated appropriately (in the case of eggs, how soon they are refrigerated)
  • how ethically the workers are treated
  • if employees or the farmer are paid a fair wage for their work
I believe there are many checks in our current food system to keep food as safe as possible.  Still, to me, there's nothing like knowing for yourself the safety of the food you eat, especially with high risk foods.  Unfortunately, it seems many foods are becoming high risk, from spinach to peanut butter, in which outbreaks of food borne illness have occurred.

After returning home from Oregon a couple weeks ago, I found a nest full of eggs in the hen house.  Most of them ended up in the compost pile, not knowing which were fresh and which were not I wasn't about to save them.  I am my own check and balance when it comes to the safety of my eggs, and that feels really great in light of today's egg outbreak news.

As I've said before, chickens are really easy animals to care for - check out my post about raising chickens if you're considering getting a few hens.  You can get chicks from local farm stores or order online from a site such as Murray McMurray.  If you prefer to start with hens, craigslist is a great place to search, but remember, no roosters within city limits!

Chicken Update:  Our chicken's don't set foot in the hen house at night any longer - post opossum attack.  Nope, it's on the window sill as close to Chris and I as they can get...after all, in absence of real ones, we're considered the "roosters."  I'm hoping the winter weather causes them to return to the house on their own, only time will tell.

Monday, August 16, 2010

No, it's not a tequila worm...

It's an apple worm steeped in vodka! 

After a day at my grandfather's house last week, I brought home two bags of apples, and the first gpa's pears. Chris started earlier this summer with apricot brandy, and while he is still waiting for it to finish, he's moved on to include apple brandy.  It's really easy to make, and you can use just about any fruit.  Check out this blogger's simple directions.

Local Food Sources Update:  Good News - The local foods list is online!  Check out the Love Local Food blog homepage - at the top you'll see a link that says "Local Food Sources."  I'm continuing to work on a few more pages, and hope those will be up soon as well.  Bon appetit locavores!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's a...

It's a watermelon!

Our first watermelon of the season!  Chris, new to gardening and perturbed by the watermelon vines taking over his garden, asked and experienced gardener what he should do about it.  "You should celebrate!" was the reply.  Chris had hoped for some guidance on how to prune or cut back the invasive vine.  Oh, the lessons of a novice gardener.

You might notice, the watermelon in the photo is strategically placed, and will be replaced in a few months with a real belly bump.  Yes, Chris and I are expecting.  We surprised our families at our 1st anniversary celebration on Aug. 1st, and surprised they were, some were shocked.  After all, we're both older than typical first parents and "Paula" and "pregnant" have never fit into the same sentence before.  But here we turning back now...and I've got the nausea and cravings (for Malt-o-meal of all things) to show for it.  Chris has been a doll, giving me daily belly rubs to sooth my sickness.

Exciting News about "the list":  I'm working on getting the local food producers list on the internet!  I'll let you know when this is complete and where to find it.  As always, share the info with those you know and send me producers that you use who may not be listed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Local Food - Oregon Style

The Blackfish Cafe - Locally Sourced Oregonian Food!
After sightseeing on the Oregon coast last week, Chris and I wandered into The Blackfish Cafe for dinner.  The walls covered with magazine articles featuring the restaurant indicated we'd made a good choice.  While dining, the waitress proudly told us the restaurant has its own local organic gardener and bakery (the Rockfish Bakery).  Each dish came decorated with edible organic flowers, and as much food as possible is purchased locally.  They even feature work from local artists.  Now, that's the kind of place I like to support!  If you're ever in the Pacific Northwest, I highly recommend looking this restaurant up!

Locally Sourced Farro
While in Portland, we visited Bob's Red Mill, a company dedicated to whole grain products.  Seeing locally grown grains available in their store made me smile, and I took a snapshot to share.  A couple of the local options included "Rolled Emmer Flakes," and "Emmer Berries" also known as "farro." 

We love community gardens, and visited one while walking on a misty morning.  Surprised at the abundance the cool northwest community grows, I felt challenged. They even had kiwi fruit, which made me wonder how we could increase the options in our Kansas garden, where the growing season is longer and the temperature is warmer.

As you travel this year, consider where your food comes from and take advantage of the locally sourced foods/restaurants where you're visiting.  Chris's Dad told a story about some Oregon natives traveling in Hawaii, and ordering Salmon while there.  Salmon is native to Oregon, not Hawaii.  Don't make the same mistake they did!  Explore the foods from the area you're exploring, you may be surprised at how wonderful they taste fresh, and you'll cut down on the economic and environmental costs of transportation (well, other than your plane ticket!)

Chris admiring the community garden.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Rocky from Oakschmied Honey, who sells products at the Old Town Farmers' Market, sent me an email that helped me to find out the answer...I wanted you to know why too!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"Oooh, that fruit is bad."

Picking apricots at my Aunt's farm - the best ones are at the top!

Chris and I picked 11 gallons of apricots in July.  My cousin, who said she doesn't like apricots, couldn't get enough of the fruit.  Picking produce at its peak can make an apricot hater into a lover.  She decided it's canned apricots she doesn't like, fresh from the tree they are delectable. 

Chris took apricots to work to share, and was surprised by the reaction of many students, "Oooh, that fruit is bad."  When fruit trees have grown naturally, without chemicals, there will be spots and imperfections.  But many people are so removed from farm fresh, chemical free food, all they know is perfect fruit grown with pesticides.  After all, as I learned in college, "the eye eats first."  Unfortunately, the eye can be deceptive.

Needless to say, we've got canned apricot preserves, canned apricot halves, frozen apricots, and dried apricots.  We look forward to using the bounty this winter, thanks to a class I took at the Sedgwick County Extension Agency on canning where I learned about the National Center for Home Food Preservation.  It's a great resource to use for safe food preserving.  Chris and I have used the site multiple times this summer.