Jan 23, 2015

Vegetable Culturing Class (Fermenting)

Just a reminder that I will be teaching a class on how to ferment vegetables (make sauerkraut) on Saturday, January 31 at 10am.

Call or email Fermentables and reserve your spot, the class is filling up.  {EDIT: Mike just told me the class is now full.  Contact the store to be placed on a waiting list.}

(501) 758-6261 or mike@fermentables.com
3915 Crutcher Street
NLR, AR 72118
The class fee is $10.


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Jan 15, 2015

Arkansas Abundance Spring CSA

I love knowing where my food comes from - and that it is nutrient dense. When you buy locally, the food is fresher (hasn't been on a truck or boat for days from California or Mexico...or China.)  And, when you buy from growers who are concerned about investing in their land with biodynamic amendments, you are sure to get nutrient dense nourishment.  The longer my nose is in the food scene, the more convinced I am of the need to vote with my fork and buy local.

It is my desire to make you aware of local, real food options.  Central Arkansas has an abundance of choices.  We are blessed!

Earlier in the week, we heard from Rattle's Garden and about their FarmShare.   In December, I mentioned North Pulaski Farms' CSA for summer 2015.  Today Arkansas Abundance is in the highlight.

Each farm has a different personality.  And options: pick up locations, variety of produce, length of season, etc.  Read through each and try to get to know your farmers.  Or, be brave and just jump right in!

There is a learning curve for using the veggies you get weekly in a CSA.  It's not bad, just different from grocery store buying.  Actually, I have enjoyed the challenge of using up what I get each week.  One of the things I appreciate about the Arkansas Abundance CSA is that you can start small.  Baby steps.

PS - I'm happy to highlight other farms, just send me the info.

Arkansas Abundance - Daniel Kiser
A local, chemical-free farm
Spring CSA 2015

How much you want,
what you want,
when you want it.

A CSA (short for Community Supported Agriculture) is a program in which a customer buys a share of a farm at the beginning of the season.  In this kind of program, the farmer benefits by sharing the risks of the growing season with his customers, while the customers benefit by receiving a convenient delivery of  produce each week.  At Arkansas Abundance, we're seeking to create a CSA that gives our shareholders both convenience and choice.  We're also committed to giving our shareholders the very best of our crop, giving them their choice of the produce before farmer's markets.

How it Will Work
Unlike many CSA programs, in which the contents of each weekly share are determined by the farmer, our program allows shareholders to choose what they want and how much they get each week.  A few days before harvest, we will share a Google Doc that lists the produce we have available.  Our shareholders will then mark on the Google Doc the produce that they would like for that week.  After it is harvested, they can pick up their produce at one of four locations on three different days, listed below.

Pick Up Locations
Hillcrest Farmer's Market
Saturday 8am-Noon
2200 Kavanaugh Blvd

Westover Hills Farmer's Market*
Tuesday 4pm-7pm
6400 Kavanaugh Blvd

Julie Majors' House
Tuesday 4pm-6pm
1600 Tarrytown Rd

West Markham Farmer's Market*
Thursday 4pm-7pm
9820 W Markham St.

*Pickup will be at the farm until these markets open in May.

The CSA will run from Apr. 19-Jun. 13. Expected produce includes organically grown lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale, swiss chard, cilantro, carrots, turnips, radishes, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, and strawberries!

Share Options

Small (1-2 people) 
$100 of produce over 8 weeks. $0-$20 value and up to 1 of each item each week.
Medium (3-4 people)
$200 of produce over 8 weeks. $0-$40 value and up to 2 of each item each week.
Large (5 or more)
$300 of produce over 8 weeks. $0-$60 value and up to 3 of each item each week.

Each week, shareholders will be able to choose the produce they want up to a certain value that depends on share size.  They can choose to get more produce on some weeks and less (or none) on others.  The amount of each kind of produce they receive will also be dependent on share size.  For example, a small shareholder will be limited to one bunch of carrots per week, while a large shareholder can choose up to three bunches of carrots per week.  These limitations help ensure that the farm is able to provide everyone with the kinds of vegetables they want.

However, there may be occasions when there won't be enough of a particular item for everyone.  This is most likely to happen near the beginning and end of the season, when crops are still growing or when they're winding down.  It may also happen in the middle of the season if there is a partial crop failure.  In these circumstances (and we will do everything we can to prevent them!), those who paid for their share earlier will receive first pick.

How to Sign Up

Email us with the information listed below.

-Phone number
-Location where you plan to pick up your produce
-Share size

Note: The pick up day you select will be your normal pick up day.  On any given week, you can pick up on a different day by contacting Daniel Kiser at least 48 hours before pick up for Hillcrest and 24 hours before pick up for Westover and West Markham.

Daniel Kiser
10305 Johnson Rd.
Little Rock, AR 72206

Visit us on our blogFacebook, Instagram or at the farm! (call/text in advance)

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Jan 13, 2015

Rattle's Garden Farmshare (or CSA) & Eggshare

On Monday, we heard from Tara Stainton of Rattle's Garden and why she's an egg snob.  Today you can read more about her farmshare program (think Community Supported Agriculture).  If you live near the LR Athletic Club, she has a very convenient deal for you --you can pick up in the LRAC parking lot.  You don't have to be a Club member to get her Farmshare delivered there.  I especially love that Tara is gleaning the extras from her garden for the Spirit of Vilonia Ministries (see the volunteer part near the bottom).  --Julie

What is Farmshare?
We used to refer to our program as a CSA which stands for Community Supported Agriculture and can take many forms.  This year we've changed the name of our program to Farmshare to emphasize that you are buying a share of what our farm produces.  This is a subscription agreement between our farm and families wishing to join our community and enjoy really delicious organic food.

Why a Farmshare?
For us, it truly is about community. While we are grateful to be part of a large local food movement through the Little Rock markets we also want to share our vegetables and flowers with our rural neighbors. The commitment our Farmshare customers make by forming this membership allows us to do this.
For you, we hope it is because you too want to be part of our community. We hope that it is because you want to know where your food is coming from, who is growing it and how it is being grown. We know that it is because you want the freshest, healthiest, tastiest vegetables available to you.

What is our Agreement?
By becoming a farm member you agree to take the time to stop by our farm every Tuesday for 10 weeks between 9am and noon or 4pm and 6pm (unless we’ve made other arrangements) to receive a basket of organic vegetables we have grown and harvested at the peak of maturity to be enjoyed by your family. By becoming a Little Rock member of the Farmshare, you agree to pick up your share every Thursday for 10 weeks from the parking lot of the Little Rock Athletic Club between 9 am and 11 am. In return, we agree to work our tails off growing you a variety of organic, fresh vegetables that have been selected based simply on how fantastic they taste.

What scrumptious vegetables are being grown at Rattle’s Garden?
For the past six years we have grown a variety of vegetables including broccoli, cabbage, swiss chard, spinach, snap peas, green beans, lettuce, kale, garlic, onions, yellow squash, zucchini, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, purple hull peas, eggplant, sweet peppers and okra.  We also grow a lot of blackberries and a few blueberries and strawberries that make it into the baskets if we have a good season.  While not all of this produce will be available at the same time, most of it will be available over the 10-week subscription period. Inevitably, every year we have a crop failure or three. Despite weather and war with bugs or deer, we always manage to grow a lot of food and we want to share our harvest with you. We hope to fill baskets with at least 5-6 different types of vegetables each week. We want every $25 basket to be equal to or greater than the market value of the individual items in it.


When will this subscription begin?
As with all farming, we are dependent on Mother Nature. We hope to start the CSA the first week in May and run for 10 consecutive weeks. If our early spring weather is great, we may start a week early. If the weather is cold and rainy, we may start a week or two later. We will send out weekly newsletters via email beginning in April to let you know how the farm is progressing for the year and when you should expect to pick-up your first basket.

What if your family needs to miss a Tuesday pick-up?
We know that there may be a day your family can’t make the pick-up. We are going to have one make-up week at the end of the season to help ensure that everyone receives all ten baskets. If you are going to miss a week, we need you to notify us by 7 am the morning before your pick-up via text or email to keep us from harvesting your food. If you cannot give us advance notice or you need to miss more than one week, you are welcome to send someone to pick up your share in your place or your share will be donated to a needy family in the area.

Do you get to pick what you want in your basket?
Not exactly…we’ll divide each week’s produce up evenly between the baskets to make sure everyone gets variety and the full value of their basket.  As members you will also be given the first opportunity to purchase large amounts of successful crops outside of the Farmshare season at wholesale prices for you to freeze or preserve by canning. If freezing or canning is new to you, we can help!

What about all of those chickens in our front yard?
This year we've decided to add an Eggshare option to the farm baskets.  To get a dozen of our beautiful, pastured eggs added to your backet every weeek you can simply add the Eggshare option ($50) to your total on the membership agreement.  If you are only interested in an Eggshare and not vegetables, please choose whether you will pick up your eggs from the farm on Tuesdays or from us at the LRAC on Thursdays.

My challenge to you, as volunteers.
Every year we grow more food than we sell.  This year, rather than simply donate the extra, we would like to plant enough to keep the Spirit of Vilonia Ministries supplied with fresh vegetables as often as possible.  To do this, we need your help.  I am challenging you to sign up for a three hour morning or evening at the farm to help pick vegetables for this program.  While this is not a requirement to join the Farmshare, it is an opportunity to really learn where your food comes from and what it takes to get it to those in need.  Volunteer opportunities will be available during the Farmshare season as well as after the season is over.

One key to success is going to be communication! We will post farm updates on our blog (www.rattlesgarden.com), on our Facebook page (Rattle's Garden) and in a short weekly newsletter sent to your email address letting you know what you can expect in your next basket. And we also want to hear from you…keep us posted on which veggies you love and let us know if something isn’t working for you. We can be reached by phone at 501-941-0331.

How do I become a Member?
So, you are ready for the yumminess.
Simply drop us an email at rattlesgarden@yahoo.com to check on availability and then fill out our membership agreement and mail it to us with your full payment of $250 for farm members or $275 for Little Rock members. We are limiting this year’s membership to thirty families picking up on Tuesday from the farm and thirty families picking up on Thursday from the Little Rock Athletic Club.  The Eggshare will be limited to 40 shares.
Thanks for your support! We look forward to working with you this summer!
Tara Stainton

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Jan 11, 2015

Why I'm an Egg Snob (and think you should be too)

Today's post is written by Tara Stainton, originally posted on her blog.  I loved what she had to say and asked her permission to post it in this space.   Also, some of you have told me you are excited about taking the vegetable culturing (fermenting) class.  Be sure to reserve your spot. Space is limited.  --Julie

I decided recently that over the last ten years I (unknowingly) became an egg snob.  Shortly after getting married I acquired my first laying hens.  At first I simply no longer needed to buy eggs from the store.  Before long though I made a conscious decision that I WOULD not buy eggs from the store.  Not because I thought mine were better but because of the feeling of independence that came with the knowledge that I no longer needed to rely on the grocery store.  (It wasn't long before this feeling transferred to veggies as well).  About the time my eyes opened to organic methods of farming I became aware of the ethical issues surrounding store bought eggs.  Sweat-shop chickens, factory farmed, whether in cages or loose, housed with 20,000 other birds was no way to ethically produce eggs in my mind.  The longer I kept chickens, learning their ways of life, the more convinced I became that we would in no way support conventional laying methods.

I first sold our eggs several years before we started growing vegetables.  Several years before I ever thought I would farm for a living.  I had about 20 laying hens and Robert would take my eggs with him to work at the Corps of Engineers weekly and dole them out to his faithful co-workers for $1 a dozen.  That makes me laugh now.  And I'm reminded of this every time we are driving out in the country and see a sign at the end of a driveway offering "Fresh Eggs $2/doz".  I wasn't in the business to make money off my eggs.  I thought I was paying for my chicken feed.  Years later, after meticulous spreadsheets have become the norm, I have to laugh.  But I wasn't keeping chickens to make money.  I was keeping chickens because I love having a laying flock.  I love the cooing and the cackling and watching them scratch the dirt.  I love that every day is like an Easter egg hunt around here.  Although, fortunately, due to their current living conditions, I don't have to hunt any further than a laying box these days.

I'm proud that over the years there has become such a high demand for our eggs.  I hear people at market tell me how much better our eggs are than store bought eggs.  I just smile and nod my head because I know that our eggs have stiff orange yolks and they are ridiculously fresh compared to store bought eggs but in the back of my mind I kind of shrugged my shoulders at the notion that they really tasted much different.  Fast forward to the last two weeks where while we were traveling for the holidays I ate store bought eggs on three different occasions.  Having been so far removed from sweat-shop eggs, I now understand what my customers have been telling me for years.  There is a difference between our eggs and store bought eggs.  Our eggs are AWESOME.  Not only is there an ethical difference in the way they are produced, there is a difference in how fresh they are, there is a difference in the way they look and there is a difference in the way they taste.  And if you've never seen our eggs before, oh my gosh.  They.Are.Beautiful.

If you are in our area, I urge you to sign up for our Eggshare program.  This is a 10-week program we are running in conjunction with ourFarmshare.  I realize though that this is only 10 weeks out of the year. We are working on the logistics of running the Eggshare  even when the Farmshare is out of season.  If you aren't near us, find a farmer or a backyard chicken keeper near you.  Whether you realize it or not, they are all over the place, it just takes a little work to find one.  And if this topic interests you, stick around...soon to post a bit about egg economics on a small farm.
Tara Stainton
Rattle's Garden
Vilonia, Arkansas

Why You Should Pay More for Eggs
Deviled Eggs: The Perfect Party Food

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Jan 6, 2015

Fermentables: Now Carrying Cultures! (& Classes!)

Central Arkansas has a gem of a locally-owned store called Fermentables.  

Primarily the store targets home brewers of beer and wine but also you'll find organic growing supplies.  I usually send people there to purchase swing top bottles for kombucha.   Most recently they have begun carrying culturing supplies!  {happy dance:: I'm thrilled!! Probiotics for the people!!}

Below my baby is modeling one of the vegetable culture starters. Behind him in the refrigerated case you'll find other Cultures for Health starters (San Francisco sourdough, milk kefir grains and water kefir grains among others.)
My daughter is holding a kraut pounder.  These things are awesome for packing sauerkraut into your container (wide or small mouth jars, especially).   Bless her heart, she wasn't feeling well during our field trip. 
 Fermentables carries all kinds of fermentation vessels and supplies for culturing vegetables.
Best of all, they are remodeling to make room for classroom space!

Upcoming Classes

The store's owner, Mike, is a great guy.  He is offering a steal of a deal on these classes.  His heart is for people to learn.  Each class is only $10 and you will go home with gifts!  There is a limited number of space in each class so contact the store soon if you are interested (details below).

On Saturday, January 31 at 10am, I will teach how to culture vegetables (or lacto-ferment).  Each student will go home with a Caldwell Vegetable Starter and a plastic fermentation lid with airlock that will fit Bell and Kerr mason jars. You can begin fermenting as soon as you go home!

On Saturday, February 21 at 10am, I will teach a kombucha class.  The kombucha class will include 1 flip-top bottle and a 1/2 gallon wide mouth mason jar.

Call or email Fermentables and reserve your spot.
(501) 758-6261 or mike@fermentables.com
3915 Crutcher Street
NLR, AR 72118
The class fee is $10/class.

These classes promise to be a fun time of learning and connecting.  I hope you will join us.

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Dec 20, 2014

Deviled Eggs: The Perfect Party Food

They need no utensils, are nutritious and many people really like them.
These were made with pastured eggs (read why you should pay more for super yellow yolks), fermented roasted red peppers and parsley from my garden.  I didn't color enhance the picture.  Instead of using mayonnaise (I was out), I used heavy whipping cream.  Delish. If you preserved lacto-fermented pickle relish this summer, use that, too.

Take some to your next holiday party.

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Dec 18, 2014

Last Minute Local Shopping (for the person hard to buy for)

I went to a "Favorite Things" party recently.  You know, the kind where you bring one of your favorite things wrapped then tell about why it is your favorite.  At our party, we drew numbers to choose a gift then played "Dirty Santa" style and people could steal the gift you opened.  

Three of the favorite things were gift cards.  Of those gift cards, two of them were from local stores that I love: The Root Cafe and The Green Corner Store.  And actually, one of the favorite things I took to the party came from The Green Corner Store (Tammy Sue's Goat's Milk Lotion).  This is really beginning to sound like a commercial, but I really like that store.  My kids love the soda fountain (who doesn't like homemade ice cream?!) and I like to go there when I'm looking for a gift for the person who has everything (except homemade marshmallows!).  You can find some one-of-a-kind gifts there.

Another option for last minute gift giving is to head out to the Hillcrest Farmers Market this Saturday 8am-noon.  Check their Facebook page for ideas.
In addition to summer 2015 CSA program North Pulaski Farms is offering gift cards for the spring.  Now thru the end of the year, buy a five pack of $25 gift cards for only $100!  The cards are valid from March 2015 thru May 2015 and can be used to purchase any products at any of the markets or on the farm.  To order you can call Kelly Carney OR pick them up at the Hillcrest Farmers Market.  The Giant Winter spinach in the photo will be the size of a basketball and ready in early March!

Kelly Carney
North Pulaski Farms, LLC
(501) 240-4233

Happy shopping and merry Christmas!

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Dec 14, 2014

Real Food Hands-On Cooking Class

Start the new year with real food cooking skills!  I will be teaching real food basics on New Year's Day at 1:30pm in my kitchen for the person eager to make baby step changes in 2015.  We will make chicken pot pie and talk and learn along the way.   
Chicken pot pie is a comfort food that many people love.  With a few minor changes, you can make it very nourishing.  It is a recipe that is easy to double and freeze half.  

 Some of the culinary topics covered will be:

- cooking / deboning a whole chicken 
- taste testing: crock pot vs. roasted chicken
- knife skills
- bone broth basics
- creating cream of chicken / mushroom soup from scratch
- making a pie crust from scratch.

Class size is limited to 6 people.  This would be a great class for mom and daughter to take together.  Or a fun gift to give to the person who has everything. 

When: Thursday, January 1 at 1:30pm
Where: my kitchen, near Whole Foods on Rodney Parham
Cost: $25 per person

Email me for additional details and to reserve your spot -- luvmyhub AT gmail.com

Stay tuned for other classes in January and February.  I will be teaching a couple of classes at Fermentables: one on culturing vegetables and one for kombucha making.


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Dec 8, 2014

My New Favorite Thing

One of my big take-aways from going to the Weston A. Price Conference was the importance of using epsom salts in my bath.  Usually I'm not a big bath taker.  Showers are much faster.  After being at the conference I decided that I would try at least once a week to take a 20-minute bath with 2 cups of epsom salts.  For bonus points, use your favorite essential oil.  

Time and time again I heard people give kudos to this inexpensive additive to your bath (both attendees as well as presenters.)  The below 10 pound bucket came from Sam's Club and was about $7.
Why is epsom salt so good for the body?

The chemical name is Magnesium Sulfate.  Many people are deficient in both magnesium as well as sulfur.  We theoretically could get those minerals from our food... 

- if we didn't have compromised guts from taking rounds of antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals
- if we only ate biodynamic, nutrient-dense, organically raised foods (and no processed foods)
- if conventional farmers used soil amendments other than N, P, and K. (Since the introduction of synthetic fertilizers in the 1950's, magnesium in vegetables has decreased 25-80%.  Buy local and organic when you can.)
- if we lived stress-free lives (Stress influences digestion --upset stomach anyone?)

The skin is the biggest organ.  For better or worse, you are absorbing all kinds of things around you.   When you soak in a bath of epsom salts the body is getting a healthy dose of magnesium and sulfur.

  {disclaimer:  I'm not a doctor or scientist.  Do your own research.  The following is my limited and simplified understanding.}

Magnesium is needed by the body for almost every cellular function.  It is a cofactor for over 300 enzyme systems in the body.  A few of the systems include protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, glucose control, and blood pressure regulation.  If you consistently just don't feel good --you quite possibly could be magnesium deficient.

When you sweat (exercise or menopause), you are loosing a lot of magnesium.  Ever have muscle cramps?

Some people tell me, "Oh, I'm taking a magnesium supplement" (or calcium and magnesium supplement).  That could be helpful, depending on your gut health and the quality of the supplement.  You could also be throwing your money down the proverbial drain if you are not absorbing it.  

You've read in this space before: compromised guts will not absorb as many minerals as a healthy gut. That is, minerals from food or supplements.

People who are extremely deficient in magnesium may find that a transdermal application of magnesium oil helps even better than a pill form.  The higher quality magnesium oils can be expensive.  Epsom salt doesn't break the bank but requires time to soak.

{side note:  several friends of mine swear by Calm and drink it as a night cap before going to bed.  They say it helps them fall asleep and stay asleep.}  
This 4 pound bag of epsom salt from Kroger was only $3.

What about sulfur?

Stephanie Seneff, PhD, argues in this article that sulfur deficiency could be a cause for obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer's and chronic fatigue.  She was a speaker for 6 hours at the conference this year.  She also spoke last year (6 hours on sulfur alone!)  One conferee told me the one big take away he remembers from last year's talks on sulfur was: 

When you’re getting sick-- cold, flu, cancer even! produces sulfur.  The body allows this to stabilize blood chemistry.  Take an Epsom Salt bath to give the body sulfur.  Or eat high sulfur foods (like garlic, onions, broccoli or cabbage). 

Since going to the conference, when family members feel a little under the weather and complain, I send them straight to the tub with instructions to use epsom salt.  My dad says he remembers his grandmother burning a sulfur candle (stinky!) in the room of an invalid.

Does it help?

It doesn't hurt.  It is not expensive.  And it doesn't stink.

Again, I feel the need to say I'm not an expert.  But I heard several people at the conference say that epsom salts (or sufficient levels of magnesium) will help you detox.  The word "detox" is somewhat of a buzz word these days and I confess I'm not sure what all it means or how the body detoxes.  

However, I do know that I want to help my body in every way possible to rid itself of toxic substances.  Another theme I kept hearing at the conference was "the reason we are so sick (as a culture) is because of all the toxins (like heavy metals) that are staying in our bodies and not being eliminated."

If taking a 20-minute bath in epsom salt relaxes my mind and heals my body, I'm in.  Bonus that it's not toxic or expensive.


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Dec 5, 2014

Creative Storage

The lid to the peanut butter that I frequently buy is the same size as a small mouth canning jar.  I store lots of things in jars, including spices in bulk from Azure Standard.  I prefer plastic lids to their metal counter parts because plastic doesn't rust when I send it through my dishwasher.

The ultimate in recycling is actually using something you'd otherwise throw away.


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