Wow. It’s been awhile. Lots have been happening in my small world. I got a new job, I got happily trapped in San Francisco for 18 hours and have endured a drought that colored everything green various shades of brown. Here are just a few pieces of eye candy ranging from throughout the summer so far. Enjoy!

Blackberry Soda made with fresh berries. It’s the perfect refreshment for these dog days of summer. Other variations include blueberry and watermelon.

Peach Vodka, best used in teas and lemonades.

 

Crock pickles, a.k.a. fermented pickles. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure about these guys. I’m not sure if it’s what I’m doing, or just how they are, but their funk is powerful, mighty powerful. I’m letting them age in the fridge, and hopefully they’ll mature into something more palatable with age, just like their creator.

Some of the haul from our garden so far. These specific vegetables were roasted for our anniversary dinner.

 

 

 

I live in the land of black dirt. Actually I live in the land of Drummer silty clay loam (the official state soil). It’s the stuff you see in commercials about the great farm lands and bread baskets. It’s made rich farmers out of the descendants of immigrants. But, as time moves forward, those descendants’ descendants have moved off the farm and into the city. Slate.com has some neat maps illustrating that migration. Take the map below. 

Ford County, which is where my parents hail from, as well as Drummer Creak silty clay loam, has 56 farmers per 1,000 residents. That number might seem low if you drove through the upside down hammer of a county. The largest town has a population of 4,400. But it seems the residents are either commuting (two metropolis centers are in neighboring counties) or have found jobs in other industries.

I’d like to see some historical data to chart out the trend that I’m extrapolating by anecdote,  and if that trend has been reversed by the new demand for locally grown produce.

Anyway, neat stuff, head over to Slate and check it out.

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That’s my dad in the garden from our first house. Thanks for everything pops, especially the love of being outside and the confidence that always says “yeah, I could do that” no matter the situation.

We got our first substantial harvest from the garden yesterday. It was pretty damn exciting. We planted a lot of potatoes on Good Friday (as prescribed by my long-time gardening Father) and they had bloomed and shed their flowers about a week ago. Curiosity got the better of me, and I dug up a mound  of the sorriest looking potato plant. The vegetables were pure gold (okay, actually they were red, we haven’t harvested any Yukon Golds yet).

I julienned the taters and put them in an aluminum foil pouch with some salt, smoked paprika and extra virgin olive oil. The pouch went on the grill for about 20 minutes. Then the wife got some fresh thyme, lavender,  and onion tops, chopped them up and sprinkled them on the grilled taters. The result was nothing short of amazing.

I now can’t wait to harvest more taters, beets, kohlrabi, green beans, and those amazing, life-changing homegrown tomatoes.

Urban agriculture, it sounds so wonky. I think better terms for growing edible stuff in a city are either gardening or farming, depending on what someone hopes to get out of it. Those people like me and the wife who have a small plot of dirt with some tomato plants, green beans, potatoes, et cetera, we’re gardeners. Those who live in a city limits and grow food or raise animals to sell to others, they’re farmers. They’re just as much farmers as the people who work thousands of acres of corn and soybeans.

The reason urban agriculture has become part of our lexicon is more of a result of two things: 1) the Great Recession and 2) a local food movement. The first stems from a bunch of industry in the U.S. shutting down and a bunch of people who just left their houses when they realized they couldn’t make the mortgage.  At the same time as all this now cheap property is becoming available, more and more people want food that is locally grown by a person(s) they can put a name and a face with, not some sterile, fluorescent lit super mega mart.

As time has passed there are more and more studies coming out regarding the new gardening and farming movement. Global Green USA, an organization that is pushing for a “sustainable and secure future” just came out with a fascinating study of farming in cities.

The basic takeaway? Farming on a small scale can be profitable. And most of these farms studied are in poor neighborhoods that have watched crime go up as property values go down and people leave. A farm that takes up a few blocks brings jobs and nutrition to some of the people who need it most.

While there are numerous technical and financial issues to be addressed, the potential benefits of (a) … farm to the neighborhood, the city … and the broader movement to revitalize transitioning cities are substantial.

Neat.

I highly recommend reading the report, especially if you’ve ever thought to yourself “gee, I’d like to starting farming, but love being able to walk to the local watering hole.”

My coworker took a trip a few hours south of here where the land is rolling and the weather is warmer. She makes an annual trip southward to pick up berries and was kind enough to pick up 10 pounds. You read that correctly, 10 pounds of fresh blueberries. Unlike the store version of the violet treats that are just sweet, the fresh berries are sweet and tart with some herbiness to them, almost a basil taste.

The first night we got the berries we at them by the handful, literally. We just stood over the box in our kitchen and took as much as we could grab and stuffed our mouths. It was glorious, and was repeated several times. But beyond enjoy the blueberries in their raw form, we also put some up. We then froze a gallon of them. My wife made a jar of blueberry syrup with them, and I, of course, canned some.

What you’ll need:

  • A generous coworker or a supply of 4 cups of fresh berries
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/8 cup bottled lemon juice

What to do:

  1. Put the berries in a wide-mouth quart jar. Pour in the sugar. Smash (this is the best part) until at least 51 percent of the berries are broken.
  2. Set the covered jar in the fridge and wait for 12 to 24 hours
  3. Pour the contents of the jar into a pot and cook down until you hit your desired consistency (for me that took about 10 minutes over a medium-high heat)
  4. Take off heat, put lemon juice in mixture and stir
  5. Pour into jars and water bath process them for 10 minutes, then turn off heat and let the jars sit in the water for five minutes (how-to-can)
  6. Remove and let sit for 24 hours, check seals, enjoy!

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