Thursday, August 11, 2011

Food security

Yay for the foodsaver - what a fabulous little device! There is something primal about saving food for the winter. Putting summer's output away for leaner times. And coming in from the garden like Miss America with a giant bouquet of nutritious greens sure gives me a luxurious feeling of abundance.

But not everyone is so lucky. Most people don't have the ability to grow and store their own food, and many people don't even get enough to eat, period. According to the USDA, an estimated 50 million people, 17 million of which are children, live in food-insecure households in America. In fact, nearly 15% of American households are food insecure. Fifteen percent.

That's...well, I was going to say "amazing" because the statistic is so stunning. But, it's not amazing. It's horrible. It's inexcusable. How is it possible that nearly one-sixth of our citizens do not have access to enough food?

Just across the border in Canada, food insecurity drops to 9%. Still too high, but only about 60% of what we tolerate here.

I'm so fortunate to live on 5 fertile acres in a mild climate, where I can raise my own meat and vegetables and help feed the people a
round me. This time of year, my grocery bill plunges and my family eats what's available outside. Part of how I say thank you to the universe is to share our bounty - this year, we're donating some of our produce to a girls camp that called yesterday. Two nights ago, Mark played a benefit to raise money for our local farmers market's food assistance program.

Next time you're at the farmers market or in your favorite grocery store, co
nsider picking up a few items for your local food bank. Better yet, take a cue from my step-mom who has been feeding breakfast to those in need once a week since I've known her - and I've known her a long, long time.

No one should go hungry in a nation with so much.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

First real harvest day of 2011

Of course, we've been eating out of the garden for over a month now - lots of kale, chard, salad mix, peas, and carrots (if you need 101 ways to use kale, I am your gal). But, with the arrival of a UPS truck bearing a Foodsaver imminent this afternoon, today is the day when a whole row of kale and a whole row of chard get harvested, blanched, and frozen for meals for the rest of the year, and the ground they leave behind gets prepped for Round 2.

Two kinds of crunchy carrots are yummy as snacks and will liven up our soups and sauces for months to come.

Even though the battle with
the weeds is never-ending, this August feels like success, not failure. We are by-passing the produce section of Thriftway, selling a little goodness to our neighbors, and looking forward to successional harvests as spring and summer crops give way to fall and winter.

When we transplanted these tiny needles of onions from the greenhouse into the garden 2 months ago, I was sure we were wasting our time. They were microscopic and immediately flopped over into a death pose. Today - they sure stir-fry up great!

It does really take a village - at least
a husband who weeds, a son who weed-whacks, and Tiffany the awesome farmhand, shown here pausing among the pumpkin plants to check in with the outside world.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ode to the egg

It's worth returning to the egg for another examination. The marketers got it quite right when they proclaimed it not just edible but incredible so many years ago. But, recent research and the rise of both small family farms and even backyard poultry show us that the egg's place in our diet is on the rise.

The egg is the backbone of most of the tiny operations here on our island, mirroring, I suspect, the context in the surrounding Puget Sound region, although certainly not the larger breadbasket of the state, where monoculture still dominates. It is the egg, usually brown or a rainbow collection, that brings folks to the farm stands, the egg that sells out first at the farmers market. For us, it is the egg that brings people up our driveway when the stand's cooler is empty, inquiring with hope and hesitation, whether perhaps by chance are there any just boxed or lying in wait in their collection basket?

And for good reason. It's almost safe to say that there's not really any such thing as "the egg" anymore. There's growing awareness out there that the factory eggs sitting on the supercolossalwonderstore shelf are simply not the same food as the hand-washed beauties resting in a cooler at the end of your neighbor's lane. My son refuses to eat eggs in restaurants now. They are pale shadows of what he gets at home and Dylan claims they are simply taste free.

Eggs are high in protein and contain every major nutrient except vitamin C. Farm fresh eggs from free-range pastured hens not only look and taste a world away from factory eggs, they are dramatically lower in both cholesterol and fat. All this makes them just about the perfect food, and we haven't even touched on their versatility yet!

What else can you fry up for breakfast, slice onto your just-picked greens for a terrific lunch salad, whip up and bake in a crust with veggies and a little ham for dinner, then fold into flour and chocolate chips and a little (OK, a lot) sugar to munch on for a treat?

To celebrate, I think it's time for another quiche recipe, especially since the Fried Green Tomato Quiche gets so much traffic. Quiche is perfect for any meal of the day and also reheats well - so make 2!

Enjoy this one with a chilled crisp rose or Cote du Rhone and some mixed greens drizzled in herbed olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar
. The perfect meal to highlight the bounty of August ~

SSF sauteed greens and bacon quiche

Preheat the oven to 425.

Prepare your favorite pie crust or roll out a store-bought one and smooth it over a lightly oiled pie pan, crimping the edges. Bake until just lightly golden, 5-7 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Wash and cut the spine out of 1 bunch of c
hard or kale. Don't dry. Chop roughly and saute with 2 cloves chopped garlic in about 1-2 TBS olive oil until wilted, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile whisk 3 large eggs with 1/3 C whole milk or half and half - or some co
mbination thereof.

Chop 1/2 pound crispy-cooked bacon into bits.

Crumble about 1/3-1/2 C of feta cheese over the bottom of your pie crust. Sprinkle the bacon bits next. Spread the wilted greens over both, then pour in the egg mixture.

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350 and bake for another 10-15. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

From our flock to yours - enjoy!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Backyard geology

We had all manner of fun while Grandpa visited, bringing in friends old and new to share the fruits of a very local food chain and enjoy the perks of island living in the summertime. But perhaps the highlight of the trip was a 36-hour detour to the Scablands of Washington. We figured a geologically-focused jaunt was in order to take advantage of my dad's expertise and throw in some home-grown science for Dylan.

What I don't think we were qui
te prepared for was just how stunningly beautiful it all was. Like my reaction to the 12-hour drive to Yellowstone, I couldn't help feeling frustrated with myself for letting such a close and easy destination go unexplored for so long - especially one that offers a breathtaking number of recreational options and decidedly different weather than our side of the state.

The Scablands are an area in
north central Washington, roughly south of Grand Coulee Dam, that was formed during a massive flooding event, so exhibits some fascinating - and beautiful - geology. The result of this ancient event is an area covered almost entirely in basalt, with giant boulders and ribbons of granite that sort of got dropped in. The practical result for us non-scientists or rock-hounds is a vast area covered in what must be hundreds of lakes.

Deep azure lakes surrounded by golden grasses and rugged, striped canyons and cliffs - a stark departure from the lush tanglewood of our misty isle.

We made lots of roadside stops, includin
g to the Petrified Forest state park we've zoomed by a hundred times as we cross the Columbia. Turned out to be just off the road (a fact you'd never gleen from the highway sign) and offered up vast vistas, very cool geology, and a little kitsch to boot.

We drank in sight after sight, marveling at the lack of population and sheer volume of parks and other publicly-owned lands, and finally decided to make it an overnighter, ending the day at quaintly-named Electric City near Grand Coulee and scoring a jaw-dropping motel room for the night.

Perfect. Scablands - you'll see more of us when the clouds come back to Vashon in the fall.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Summer scenes from SSF

Although it may appear that I never tire of blabbing on about the weather, I have, in fact, run out of things to say about the dismal grayness of this most miserable of years.

Which works out jus
t great, because due to the magical powers of my father, summer arrived on an Air Canada flight from Toronto last week and all is well! True to his promise, Grandpa brought temperatures in the 80s and a bright yellow orb to accompany them - and you have never seen so many smiling faces as on our little island of Vashon. The magician has returned to his native land, but left behind a precious gift indeed.

Thanks Dad!

To celebrate, fewer words and more photos of the bounty of summer. Happy animals, new babies, and the moments that help remind us
why we do this.

Middy had twins in July! Yay Middy! Here they are about 2 hours old, a boy and a girl. Way to go, Mama ~

After our Great American Road Trip and before Grandpa visited, Dylan taught his pal Zach and Tiffany the Awesome Farmhand how to form, press, and grill tortillas.

Ta-da! Next cooking lesson: ravioli!

What's more promising than baby lettuces in June?

Animals enjoy a well-earned reward on Wrangling Day.