detroit:green

More on the Detroit urban farming movement. A video from Sara Cross:

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Jack Frost.

Around the gardens here in The Mission, we’re packin’ up for winter.  As I write this, record low temps are due for the entire Bay Area tonight that dip below 30*.  This frost is most certainly a game-changer for our greens.  While there are many ways to prevent frost damage, luckily Amyitis doesn’t have all that much to protect at the moment.  Most of our space is now occupied by frost-hearty cover crop or planted deep with garlic and potatoes.  Some of these root crops have sprouted and I am curious to see how the frost affects them, the garlic shoots in particular.

In Vermont, November garlic plantings very quickly faced low temperatures and light.  This didn’t allow them time to sprout before the snows of winter; they lay protected under the ground until spring.  Here however, all of the garlic planted in November has seen the light of day due to our easy climate…. and now BAM!  An edge event like this frost can be quite destructive for a region unprepared for such weather.  I guess I’ll see tomorrow morning.

Frost occurs when a (deposition) surface temperature falls below that of the dew point of the surrounding air.  Plants not protected by a thermal mass or with exposed foliage quickly fall below dew point temperatures on these extremely cold nights and begin to collect ice crystals.  These ice crystals can destroy cell walls of many vegetable plants turning them black and rendering them “compost” within an hour.

Above and below are a couple of pics from a potato planting day.  The cut halves of the seed potatoes are dipped in ash ( highly alkaline) to prevent seed rot.  Tomorrow I will be experimenting with potato towers to examine the difference between methods.

Until next time,

Happy gardening.

-David

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WWOOF on

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms” (or  “WWOOF”) is an international organization that connects volunteers with sustainable organic farmers all over the world. In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation, and organic farming knowledge. My own interest in WWOOFing led to a “WWOOF” search on Flickr, which led to some pretty amazing results. Below are my favorites (out of about a thousand photos). All these photos have been tagged with “WWOOF.” Click on a photo to view the original Flickr photo.

WWOOF on Flickr:

Colorado

New Jersey

Spain

India

Minneapolis

Japan

Sicily

France

Japan

Nepal

Japan

France

Chicago

New Jersey

Upstate New York

Japan

France

New Jersey

Oregon

France

Japan

Norway

India

Costa Rica

Norway

Japan

Upstate New York

Upstate New York (Same lily pond, 1921)

New Jersey

Japan

Scotland

California

Japan

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San Francisco + food movement + tomorrow

Hoping to spend tomorrow discussing sustainable & safe food systems? Well, you have *two* intriguing events to choose from December 1st 2009.

The first promises some controversy. Our friends at Slow Food SF are organizing a panel discussion featuring panelists from both sides of the food movement aisle.

The Slow Food SF Eat In, September 2009

Starting at 6:45pm at the S.F. Public Library’s Koret Auditorium (100 Larkin & Grove) the panel will feature Douglas Gayeton (author of the book Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town),  Sarah Rich, Sam Mogannam from Bi-Rite, farmer Casey Havre, chef Michelle Fuerst, and Slow Food SF’s very own  Dava Guthmiller. After this spirited debate Slow Food will be hosting a book signing/exception/reception at 18 Reasons in the Mission. (Via Mary Ladd & SFoodie)

Looking to learn more about Permaculture in the Mission tomorrow? Look no further! December 1st 7-9pm Movie Night @ The Red Poppy Art House (2698 Folsom Street @ 23rd Street) will be showing the Geoff Lawton  film, Introduction to Permaculture Design (What I’m sure will be)  a spirited Q & A will follow the screening with Kevin Bayuk and David Cody answering your questions.  Given David Stockhausen’s recent and very positive experience with Permaculture this event is too tempting for us to pass up. Hope to see you there!

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Katie Conry vs. Sugar

Sugar, in many of its forms, cannot be a part of my diet. This limitation  has lead to some interesting kitchen experimentation. Those with sugar allergies like mine, really shouldn’t have anything sweet at all, but dessert can be an inevitable part of a special occasion, special occasions like Thanksgiving for example. Pumpkin pie particularity was my favorite food growing up and I used to eat it ferociously every Thanksgiving (I have a clear memory of one Thanksgiving sneaking one slice too many and throwing up on my dad’s shoes).  What can I say? I love food, and sometime I let that love get a little out of hand. Making pies with my mom has been a tradition for a while. The good news for people with food allergies like mine is that there are low glycemic index sweeteners, and while they are not ideal, they are much better than good old fashioned sugar. Cafe Gratitude, the raw food restaurant, makes maybe the best desserts I’ve ever had, and their desserts are vegan, raw, and sweetened with any of the following- dates, agave nectar, and yacon syrup.

The question is- can I re-create these pies and be able to partake in Thanksgiving pie feasting? How will my family feel about these raw vegan pies? I decided the best thing to do would be to try and make them the week before and see how they turn out. The plan was to make a pecan and a pumpkin pie- whichever one turns out best I will make for my family and make a traditional version of the losing pie. Keeping the traditionalists happy.

Here’s how it went (for the full recipes, see the end of this post):

To make the crust for the pecan pie I blended 2  3/4 cups of macadamia nuts in my food processor. The recipe warned to not blend too much- the nuts would release an oil making a more liquid than dough-like consistency. Ignoring this warning I went ahead and blended too much, and made a mixture more like liquid and less like dough. To combat this, I added some quinoa flour to make this substance more doughy; this worked pretty well.  I pressed this nut dough into the pie tin. I’d recommend greasing your pie tin with some coconut oil first. Note: the blended macadamia nuts made an absolutely-delicious-way-better-than-butter spread. In and of itself, an amazingly delicious sugar free desert.

After the macadamia nut adventure I got to work on the filling. I followed the recipe and blended the ingredients including something called Irish moss. I poured the filling into the crust and stuck the pie in the fridge to chill. Done.

Apparently Irish Moss is a seaweed that is utilized to bind raw desserts. I tried to buy fresh Irish Moss at Rainbow Grocery but they were out, so I bought dry Irish Moss instead.

The pumpkin pie recipe called for butternut squash instead of pumpkin. I bought a pumpkin anyway, cut it in half, removed the seeds and stuck it in the oven for a good long while. Yes, this pie is no longer raw, but sugar is my main concern here not raw food living.

I made a crust, this time by blending pecans, dates, vanilla and salt. It was good, but the macadamia nut crust had set the bar much much higher.

Pumpkin pie is essentially pumpkin + sugar + milk + egg + cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger. At least I can include all of the spices- and that’s a big part of where the taste comes from. Instead of milk, I used coconut milk (from a bottle, but I vowed to use an actual coconut if I made this pie again), lecithin is used instead of egg (a soy product that binds like egg and is available at Rainbow), and agave is added instead of sugar. Also thrown in is some coconut butter- I tried the mixture before and after, the coconut butter made a huge yumminess difference. (Coconut butter by itself makes a totally delicious low sugar dessert. I like to heat some up in the microwave every now and then.) The filling was quite tasty, and I ended up eating quite a bit of it before spooning the rest into the crust and sticking it in the fridge. Done.

Which dessert was better? Were either of them good? Taste got an A. Consistency- an F.

Roommate #1 checks out the pies

is consistency really that important?

The pies were pretty much soup. All three of my roommates agreed it was tasty soup, but soup none the less. Roommate #2 commented that “They are good as long as you change your definition of what constitutes a pie.” Could I serve this soup pie to my family? Well the interesting thing is that the pumpkin pie, left in the fridge over night firmed up to a reasonable level. And it’s also possible that fresh Irish moss really would make a big difference to the pecan pie (I’m pretty sure that the dry moss didn’t make any difference at all). The pecan pie was generally agreed upon to be the tastiest. (Although we all agreed that some whipped cream would greatly improve the pumpkin pie.) So this Thursday I’ll be making a raw pecan pie and a regular pumpkin pie. Roommate # 3 suggested I make the pecan pie in a square pan- presenting the dessert in a the different format would take away the suggestion of a pie, thereby lowering consistency expectations. The idea being that in a square tin everyone would think, oh what a delicious liquid  souffle thing, as opposed to, why is this pie all liquidity? I absolutely see the merit in this suggestion, but I think I’m going to be bold and try it again in a pie tin and hope the fresh Irish moss does its job. Check back to see how this goes.

Roommate #1 tries some pie

Happy Thanksgiving from Amyitis!!! (A true harvest holiday.)

The Recipes (From the Cafe Gratitude Cookbook):

Pecan Pie
Crust:
2 3/4 cup of macadamia nuts
1/8 teaspoon of salt

Filling:
1 1/2 ounces of Irish Moss
1/2 cup of water
3/4 cup agave nectar
1 cup of pecans
1 1/4 cups well-packed finely chopped dates
1 tablespoon yacon syrup
1/8 teaspoon of salt

Topping
1 cup of pecans

Crust:

Process the macadamia nuts and salt to a dough-like consistency. (Do not over-process or the macadamias will release too much oil.) Press into a 9-inch pie pan.

Filling:

Blend Irish moss with water and agave until smooth. Set aside. Food process pecans until a paste-like consistency is achieved. To this add your blended ingredients, as well as vanilla, yacon syrup, and salt; process again until smooth. While processing add the chopped dates in small amounts until smooth. Spoon mixture into crust. Top with pecans. Chill in fridge for 10-15 minutes.

Pumpkin Pie

Crust:
2 1/2 cups pecans
1/4 cup well-packed, finely chopped dates
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla
1/8 teaspoon of salt

Filling:
3 cups butternut squash (shredded and medium-packed)
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 teablespoon vanilla
2 pinches salt
2 teaspoons ginger powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon clove
pinch turmeric
2 tablespoons lecithin
1/2 + 2 tablespoons raw unscented coconut butter

Garnish:
1/2 cup pecans

Crust:

Process pecans, vanilla, and salt briefly. Continue processing while adding small amounts of date until crust sticks together. Press into a greased (with coconut oil) 9-inch pie pan.

Filling:

Blend all ingredients except lecithin and coconut butter until smooth. Then add lecithin and coconut butter, blending until well incorporated. Pour into prepared crust and set in fridge/freezer (about 30-40 minutes). Once set, decorate with pecans.

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From massive failure comes radical ideas

A city long on the decline, Detroit now finds itself essentially in ruins. And yet, necessity being the mother of invention, Detroit is positioning itself as the forefront of the nation’s urban farming movement, using radical and innovative ideas outlined by Aaron Renn in this fascinating article. According to Renn, Detroit has become “a blank canvas” and “the ultimate arena in which to prove yourself” for urban farming and other alternative urban ideas.

Renn quotes Mark Dowie from Guernica:

“Were I an aspiring farmer in search of fertile land to buy and plow, I would seriously consider moving to Detroit. There is open land, fertile soil, ample water, willing labor, and a desperate demand for decent food. And there is plenty of community will behind the idea of turning the capital of American industry into an agrarian paradise. In fact, of all the cities in the world, Detroit may be best positioned to become the world’s first one hundred percent food self-sufficient city.”

Renn writes, “He documents several examples of people right now, today growing food in Detroit. It wouldn’t surprise me, frankly, if Detroit produces more food inside its borders today than any other traditional American city.”

From Guernica:

“About five hundred small plots have been created by an international organization called Urban Farming, founded by acclaimed songwriter Taja Sevelle. Realizing that Detroit was the most agriculturally promising of the fourteen cities in five countries where Urban Farming now exists, Sevelle moved herself and her organization’s headquarters there last year. Her goal is to triple the amount of land under cultivation in Detroit every year. All food grown by Urban Farming is given free to the poor. According to Urban Farming’s Detroit manager, Michael Travis, that won’t change.”

Renn, “The fact that Urban Farming moved to Detroit is exactly the effect I’m talking about. To anyone with aspirations in this area, it is Detroit that offers the greatest opportunity to make your mark.”

Detroit seems to have turned into a vibrant incarnation of the American dream. A counter point to the idea of the wild untamed west, is this ruined, collapsed and abandoned west. The American imagination loves the idea of making something from nothing, in a setting of partial anarchy. Detroit has become a space to re-imagine urban American. And urban farming, Renn argues has been at the forefront of this re-envisioning.

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Class act.

Now I plant more Fava beans and use more mulch. Find out why

For those of you that enjoy my blogging voice, I apologize for its absence.  It has been a small while since I have posted.  And as you may already know, my good friend Katie has graciously taken the helm in my stead.  But, it is my “stead” that compels me to write to you now. The subject at hand is one of drastic importance for me and for all of us.  If you are not interested yet, keep reading anyway.

The reason for my sparse blog presence has mostly because I have been immersed in my recent permaculture class with Permaculture SF. It is not for the fact that the class kept me too busy to blog, but more that I was (and still am) completely inspired and changed by this class, its teachers, and my fellow students; so much so that I have since dedicated my time, thought and effort to the principles and practices I gathered there.  In fact, with no offense intended toward my favorite UVM professors, I feel downright comfortable saying that it may be the single most rewarding class I have ever taken to date.

A good class doesn’t just transmit information, it changes the way you think.  While I am tempted here (with all of this empty white blog space beneath me) to convey some of the specific lessons from my experience, I would rather say that this class and my cohort transformed the way I see my environment, my world, and my community.  And now I see that this new lense as the most valuable tool I walked away with.  I now look at Amyitis differently.  I see our mission, my mission, as transmogrified.  You see, permaculture is not simply about learning techniques and strategies but about, what my teachers David Cody and Kevin Bayuk like to say, “overstanding” the issue.  To translate, to overstand is to interpret the whole system, understand more deeply.

I learned that, Amyitis has been utilizing some permaculture strategy since its inception, but its scope has maybe been too narrow, its berth too wide.  What I write now is to urge anyone and everyone to take a permaculture design certification class in your neighborhood or city.  If you are an engineer, a foodie, a home gardener, or even business strategist, this class will change your life.  If you are luck enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area you can be lucky enough to take a course with Kevin and David, HERE. They also have a blog you can follow if you like.  Don’t waste any time.  The Spring PDC starts January 13th 2009 in Potrero Hill.

Hey you may find yourself in a picture like this one, smiling your little face off.

 

2009 Fall Urban PDC Graduates.

-David

 

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