Planting my #Garden for #Earthday Today

After WWII, America realized what we thought was the golden promise of an Industrialized Era.  We were (and are) an industrious bunch, working on efficiencies and trying to make EVERYTHING cheaper, better, faster…  at any cost, apparently.  We got good at it.  VERY good.  The problem is, in an era of excess, waste occurs.  We are content with car that get 20 MPG when gas is under $2 a

gallon.  Now it’s over $4 a gallon and we’re worried.  We, as consumers don’t see why it’s so expensive.  We don’t often realize that it takes MILLIONS of years to create the oil we use in practically EVERYTHING we produce from gas, to industrial fertilizers to plastic goods.  It’s taken us under a hundred years to notice that oil is not unlimited and that we maybe running to the end of our supply.  Millions of years to make, a century to use.  Hmmm…  Time to move on to something different.

What does this have to do with my garden?  Nothing really, except that by planting a garden, you too can help save the Earth, just like supporting endeavors to utilize renewable energy sources.  I guess they are linked.  And, it is Earth day after all.  And there’s only one Earth.

So, let’s ALL plan ahead.  Invest in renewable energy now AND start finding ways to conserve water.  Because, the next wars will be fought over H2O.  Trust me.  And it worries me.  Plan now.  Happy Earth Day, Earth.

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New Hybrid-Hydroponic System Results for Micro Greens in Our Kitchen

Well, here are some photos of what our pea tendrils look like using the new soiless growing medium.  These photos are taken 10 days after germination with just water and organic fertilizer.


 Needless to say, we will be switching all of our indoor growing operations to this new system. 
 It’s remarkable.  Thanks to the Ladybug Store for hooking us up with the experiment.  

What is Sustainable?

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the USDA Website:

Definition of Sustainable Agriculture

The term ”sustainable agriculture” (U.S. Code Title 7, Section 3103) means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will over the long-term:

  • Satisfy human food and fiber needs.
  • Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends.
  • Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls.
  • Sustain the economic viability of farm operations.
  • Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.

 

From Yourdictionary.com:

us·tain·able (sə stānə bəl)

adjective

  1. capable of being sustained
  2. designating, of, or characterized by a practice that sustains a given condition, as economic growth or a human population, without destroying or depleting natural resources, polluting the environment

I need to qualify this by saying I am not a farmer.  I respect farmers/ranchers/food producers.  It’s hard work.  It’s also very unpredictable.  Farming sustainability requires an understanding of the relationships between organisms and their environment.  One must benefit the other.  Consider it a closed loop system.  You don’t really need to introduce anything if done well.  Composting, water catchment and wind or solar power are examples of sustainable practices.  It’s important for me as a chef to understand how this works.  I need to understand why a commercial egg costs me 11 cents while a sustainable egg costs me 25 cents.  It’s important for my guests to understand this as well.

Food is getting more and more expensive.  There are reasons why.  Food in the US is cheaper than most other countries.  It’s artificially kept low by the government.  I don’t yet fully understand why.  I’m in the process of studying it now.  The main thing to know is that the food system must change.  If we are to continue as a people, we need to get back to basics and re-learn what our grandparents held dearly.  Are we as Americans generally privileged?  Yes.  Are we softer because of this?  Yes.  Will this be our undoing?  Only you can decide.  For now, support your sustainable food producers.  Just in case.  It may cost more, but can you put a price on a healthy planet?

Jim, Innkeeper at The Wine Country Inn

I’m currently staying in St. Helena at The Wine Country Inn.  Beautiful even though I have arrived in the middle of a huge rainstorm.  I have been put up in one of the luxury cottages.  Thanks Jim, even though I have yet to meet you.  And thanks to Jerry for setting it up for me.  The purpose of this post is to relay something that occurred to me by staying here.  An epiphany of sorts.  See, I like Jim already and I have not even met him.  Here’s why:

I read a small piece he wrote on how he says he likes 5 star properties. It went like this:

“For this video, my wife wanted me to tell a story, but it was too long. For my 50th birthday, I wanted a huge celebration trip. I               read reviews of great hotels all over the world. I came up with a long list of 4-Star and 5-Star properties to visit. My wife reviewed         the list.

“You hate 5-Star properties,” she informed me.
“What, I love them,” I corrected her.
“You hate them,” she insisted.
“What are you talking about, look at these places, watch the virtual tours, they are all beautiful,” I whined.
“Granted, they are beautiful, but you don’t like dressing for breakfast, or even lunch for that matter. You love the luxury, but you         hate the attitude.”
Of course, she was right. And as The Wine Country Inn has become more and more luxurious, I have kept that in mind. I hope you       enjoy staying at The Inn as much as I love running it.”

I have been writing a lot about fine dining and how it’s changing.  Evolving.  And this is exactly why.  There is a big move to a casual feel. For the most part, guests want 5 star food.  They want attentive service.  They don’t want to dress up.  They don’t want to have to choose from 12 different types of silverware.  They don’t want to sit through a 3-4 hour dinner.  Fun, new, exciting, quick.  2-3 courses.  Value.  But…  must be impressive.  This is how things are changing.  I did not have the words to articulate this, but Jim did it perfectly.  Unpretentious hospitality.  Thanks Jim.

Wine Country Inn

St. Helena, California

Pros and Cons of Working with a Decades Old Menu.

It’s a respectful thing to work with such a time proven menu.  Very traditional.  I am very happy I also get to have a portion of the menu that is highly seasonal and modern.  Best of both worlds.  Drawback?  Well, 30 years ago, it was chic to use what were, back then, modern ingredients.  “Exotic” herbs were dried and used as we use fresh herbs just clipped from our garden.  Broth bases were used and considered a “gourmet” item.  Times have changed.  These recipes haven’t.  So, I continue to work on ways to improve the ingredients while staying true to tradition and the dish itself.  Point in case, I have started making my own chicken base.  There are a couple recipes we use that are over 50 years old and very popular that use it.  My version contains nothing more that organic chicken from Washington.  Nothing more.  And I use it exactly the same as the processed stuff that has an ingredient list longer than this blog post.  Come by and try the difference for yourself.  I reduced 5 gallons of chicken stock to 28 ounces of “base”.  It’s amazing…

More Evidence. Is Fine Dining Dead?

Planting Seeds of Change.

Sometimes in our high-stress industry, the most difficult thing to do is to have the patience to wait and allow something to grow.  This is most challenging when it’s apparent that people around you do not want to change.  As I look back on my first year here in Southern Oregon, I am tremendously proud of everyone I work with.  I spent this year “planting seeds” and as I have mentioned before, now have to choose which ones to cultivate.  It’s abundantly clear from the response that this change is favorable and we are involved with something that has become greater than all of us.  I am truly at my greatest when I can “plant a seed” with a fellow cook and see them take it and run.  I sometimes marvel at the talent that emerges given the proper “cultivation”.  I now see it every day as I work in a basement under 2,000 tons of brick that was layed over 2 centuries ago.  Inspiration is the ingredient, realizing the dream is the dish.  This, my friends, is only the beginning.

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