Monday, July 30, 2012

Farm Foodies

Sara is always up for making a great meal. We've created a lot of wonderful meals here at Elk Creek, which I have eaten with enthusiasm. Between fresh organic mint, cilantro, garlic, heirloom tomatoes, hot peppers, squash, cucumbers, zucchini, berries, green beans, and an occasional fig, the Hammonds have an array of fresh and delicious ingredients to choose from for their meals this time of year.

We are able to get at least one thing if not more from the garden onto everybody's plates for just about every meal. I really enjoy it.

Prepping a salsa

Elk Chili made with an elk Sherman hunted, canned Super Tasty tomatoes from last season, and Elk Creek squash

A Balinese-style fruit arrangement--featuring Elk Creek strawberries

Elk Creek zucchini and egg fritters topped with fresh salsa

Green beans with garlic, carrots, soy sauce, and sesame seeds--lots from the garden in here

Hand-tossed pizza with mixed vegetables

Raspberry jam, a la Elk Creek

Beef and bean tostadas with fresh veggies

A tomato sauce from more canned Super Tasty tomatoes from last season

And a red, white, and blue patriotic dessert for the Olympics opening ceremony!
It's hard to say where the garden work ends and the kitchen work begins. And that how I like to live.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Eat Your Heart Out Martha Stewart: Wild Black Raspberry Syrup Making With The Hammonds

I pride myself on going to great lengths to make things from scratch. Thanks to the Hammonds, I am now in a new league.

Sherman and Sara drove us around in the Oregon woods on dirt roads in search of blackcap raspberries, which are wild black raspberries. They know the area well of course, and knew just where to look.

Find them we did. After an afternoon of gathering, we came back with almost 2 gallons.

You berry experts out there might be wondering if there aren't a few large blackberries mixed in. You are right. We found a few luscious wild Oregon blackberries during our hunt, and their taste is unlike any blackberry I've ever had. They burst with sweet juice and end on a light sugary cloud. Heavenly.

Blackcap raspberries are too seedy to enjoy raw or to make jam from, so Sara feels it's best to make syrup with them.

We strained them of all their juices, added about 2 cups of sugar, boiled them until most of the water had evaporated, and poured it into sterilized jars....

Then enjoyed blackcap raspberry syrup over oatmeal pancakes with extra raspberries this morning.

 What a pleasure.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Taking Time For Fun

Megan, Sara, and I have been working hard to keep Elk Creek Gardens going and growing. We've been very busy weeding, digging, planting, picking, and preparing this past week, so a few days ago Megan and I decided to take off for some fun. We ended up at Union Creek, Oregon where we camped, hiked, and ate delicious homemade berry pie near the Rogue River for 2 days.  

When we returned, we all went Ashland for a day, a small city that is great for walking and shopping. I spotted this incredible trailer at the Ashland Food Co-op. I wish I could meet the owner!

And yesterday, I visited Crater Lake National Park. 

Crater Lake is the US's deepest lake. It was formed over the last 7000 years after a volcano blew its top off, leaving a sort of bowl behind called a caldera. It filled with rainwater and soon enough, voila.

Since there are no streams flowing into or out of the lake, few fish species exist. Wind is the only element that moves the water around it seems. Very interesting contained ecology.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

WWOOF Adventures Begin at Elk Creek Gardens

Where do I begin?

The Hammonds' have welcomed me very warmly into their farm operation and their home--an place that is impossible to appropriately capture in words.

Sara and Sherman cultivate their organic garden, hunt, fish, and make life happen in amazing ways out here on their beautiful woodsy property, nestled near Crater Lake in the Rogue River-Siskiyou Forest in Oregon. It is blissfully quiet with incredible mountain vistas and all sorts of wildlife. 

Sara and Sherman have been here since 1971 and have raised 2 children here. They have so much more experience and knowledge of life in a small rural community and farming than my 10 day visit could ever do justice to.

Their house is really special, and I promise a post dedicated to it. They built it themselves, along with help from some friends. Almost all of it was put together over time with local and reclaimed materials, or gifts from friends and family.

Sara provides organic produce and flowers to members of her Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) in Trail, Shady Cove, Eagle Point, and Prospect. Occasionally she sells produce at markets in Ashland. This is no small feat. To do this, she cultivates several fields, 3 greenhouses, berry bushes, and fruit trees, with the help of her husband Sherman. I have a lot of respect for the work they put in to make it all happen. 

So much about organic gardening involves holding your own against other elements. We battle for Elk Creek's wares against a free roaming cattle herd, deer, insects, gophers, weeds, and of course, the heat of the day. Much of our days revolve around securing the goods from one or more of those. 

I've also harvested raspberries, boysenberries, carrots, spinach, strawberries, garlic, tomatoes, green beans, basil, and flowers, and I've gone on the produce delivery to the CSA members in Shady Cove with Meghan, the other WWOOFer staying with the Hammonds this summer. 

Screens on top of strawberries deter hungry deer.

Morning Glories are pretty, but they spiral up other plants and eventually choke them. So, out they go.

Meghan, the other WWOOFer. Check the bags in the backseat--I accompanied her on the delivery to Sara's CSA customers on Wednesday.
In just a few short days Sara, Sherman, Meghan, and I have done a lot of good work, a lot of great eating, and a lot of laughing together. I'm looking forward to more...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sustainable Living in Berthoud, Colorado

I love traveling. It is such a luxury to be able to drive around and see so many different places. And I love to see how people live all over our country.

After a fun overnight stop in Clayton, New Mexico I made it to Berthoud, Colorado to visit my cousins.

My cousins live in a suburban neighborhood here in Berthoud. They have been in the process of building a homestead since they relocated here about a year ago, and have started with raising chickens for eggs. Check them out!     

They built the coop themselves, and I thought it was really impressive. The frame is built out of palette wood and was wrapped in roofing felt paper for weatherproofing. The siding was built using free fence planks given from a neighbor tearing her fence apart. They were really able to keep costs down this way. 

There's a little chicken door that lets the hens in and out of the structure, and so they get plenty of outdoor time which they tend to spend pecking around and chasing each other. They also come out into the backyard from time to time. The dog is really helpful at herding them back inside the coop!

The hens lay eggs and sleep together inside the wooden structure which has a small heating lamp for extra warmth during winter. This encourages them to lay more frequently. The chickens have a 2-3 year window of laying during their lifespans before they stop, so the idea is to get as many eggs as possible during that window.

Berthoud allows residents to own 2 chickens per person in each household. My cousins started with 12, but lost 2 to illnesses, so now there are 10. They get about 9-10 eggs daily, but the chickens don't lay all the time, so saving a few here and there for the future is helpful when it's possible.

We were able to go in and get a batch yesterday. In order to remind the hens to lay eggs, a fake easter egg has been placed in the nest. Clever!

The bounty for the day...

In addition to the chickens, a 12' x 12' garden is in the works for fall. There's also a nice compost pile already started behind it. My cousins are really industrious homesteaders so I'm predicting their garden will be a great success.

OK! Off to Soda Springs, Idaho now. Wish me luck....

Thursday, July 5, 2012

LGG is hitting the road!

Wow, I can't believe it's been over a month since my last post! Time flies when you're teaching intensive summer classes....

Anyway, big news. I've got about 6 weeks off coming up so I've decided to go on a gardening adventure!

I joined an organization called WWOOF: Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, which allows you to work on organic farms all over the world in exchange for room and board. I signed up for WWOOF USA and found 2 farms in Oregon that have agreed to host me for 4 weeks!

Projects on the farms include no-till permaculture (will keep you posted on what that is), vegetable, fruit, nut, herb, and gardening, animal caretaking, and providing produce to a 35-member CSA (which is kind of like a produce club).

I am SO excited. In 5 days I will begin my journey from Texas to Oregon. I can't wait to share it all with you along the way: the work, the food, the places, and the people.    

Other than that, plenty has been going on in the garden despite LGG's hiatus. In fact, last weekend my community garden plot got compliments from not 1, but 2 of my personal gardening heroes. They are both excellent gardeners, and they both said my fare was looking fantastic. Perhaps my skills have progressed, now that I am coming up on an entire year as an urban farmer! Of course those of us who garden know it's mostly all about mother nature out there. Still, I feel like a proud mama.   :)

A rainbow of chard

This malabar spinach magically grew up the bamboo rods! What art.

These mystery tomato plants were a gift. Let's see what kind we get...