Homemade Farm Fresh Soda

Yep, a lot of us are addicted to soda.  4 out of 5 of us in this household are junkies.  And last I heard, soda doesn’t do a lot of good for our health.  With that being said, I want to serve soda at our farm dinners.  I am not one of the four addicted in our house, however I think a well crafted, Italian style soda, made right on the farm would be a welcome addition in the hot afternoons.  So, I’ve got this cool mid-century 10 gallon soda keg from Niagara Falls Pepsi-Co that I have thought about using for about 5 years now.  I bought it when I lived in Hawaii and It’s been collecting dust.  Well, today I disassembled it, changed all the crumbling o-rings, scrubbed it, sanitized it, and ran scalding hot water through it.  I wasn’t even sure if it would work, so I charged it with CO2 and looked for any leaks.  Stayed sealed tight and this is what I ended up with:

So, this is what I am going to do.  I am going to fill the tank with farm spring water and carbonate it.  We will have fresh fruit and berries (whatever’s in season) that we will turn into syrups.  As our guests are arriving, we will pour the syrups into glasses and top them off with freshly carbonated spring water.  Voila!  A round of homemade farm fresh sodas for everyone.  Or how about a peach and amaretto flavored soda?  A light blast of farm fresh cream?  This is gonna be awesome!

THE Way to Grow Vegetables for Your Restaurant or Home

I recently stumbled across an idea that many people have been exploring for a long time.  It’s called Straw Bale Gardening.  It’s got a huge advantage to conventional gardening.  It’s essentially a form of container gardening, but it’s very low cost and extremely  flexible in it’s set-up.  The bales sit up high on top of the ground and you don’t have to deal with turning soil, bending so far over, rocks, poor soil, or getting as dirty.  The only disadvantage that I can see so far is they initially take a lot of water to get them cooking.  After that, an easy drip system will minimize water loss.  Perfect for urban farming, even directly on concrete.  Make sure you don’t mind a little discoloration on the concrete if you do.

What’s happening is that the bales of straw (not hay), after conditioning, start to slowly decompose releasing nitrogen into your plants. Conditioning is easy.  Simply soak the bales in water twice a day for about 10 days.  Add about 3 cups of organic, nitrogen rich fertilizer to the tops of the bales at the beginning of this process so the nutrients can soak down into the bales.  Be sure the ties that are keeping the bales together are running horizontally so that no part touches the ground otherwise they could rot and your bales would fall apart. 

Sometime during this 10 days, the bale will start to get very warm in the middle.  This is the start of the chemical break down otherwise known as the conditioning.  If it does not heat up, it won’t grow your garden.  The heating up will subside after about a week.  After that, you simply lay out some compost on top of your bales and plant your seeds or transplant your starts.  Just water and fertilize as normal and get ready to enjoy some great produce.  The details can be found here.

This is am extremely simplified version of the conditioning phase.  There are many examples out there of watering/feeding schedules to follow and how to achieve the “best” results.   Check them out.   A vast majority of people using this method report much fewer weeds, pests, diseases, and fewer general problems than planting directly in the ground.  Bales will last 2 seasons.  After that, spread them out over the ground to have some great compost to start some new bales.   I will be planting potatoes, peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, beets, broccoli, and a few herbs.  I can’t wait to give it a try.  Why not you?

Disturbing Account at a Failed Attempt at Farming

Wow, I was really taken back by this post I read on Homegrown.org.  The article is here.  It describes  the account of a couple who wanted “to answer a single question: can young Americans make a career of farming?”  Well, the short of it was, no.  According to them. But it was strictly from their point of view, virtually condemning ANY young farmer wanting to start out.  The author goes on to say “Young people cannot reasonably have careers in farming in America.”  

Well, that pissed me off.  Here is a comment I left.

“Wow…I feel bad for your failed “experiment” however this is written from a very one sided point of view. While I have not tried to be a farmer and make a living, I HAVE been an intern/cook making less than minimum wage and worked my way up through 22 years to were I am now. Calling it quits after only 3 years? Work is hard. Money is not always great. Passion is why we do it. Working hard for that sense of accomplishment, knowing that you’re doing good.

You start off by saying “I began Dissertation to Dirt hoping to answer a single question: can young Americans make a career of farming?” Good question. It is no doubt that many have looked to your work to answer this very same question. I know many farmers that started as you had and, while not millionaires, are now living humble lives doing what they feel is right.

You go on to declare “Young people cannot reasonably have careers in farming in America.” Seriously? I can name half a dozen young farmers in my area right now that are doing it. Passionate about it. Loving it. Again, not because the money is good, (it is not), but because they know they are a part of something bigger. The reshaping of our broken food system.

I’ll be honest, I was upset when I finished reading this. A colleague forwarded it to me. I’ve never felt like a preacher, but it’s clear by the comments this post has received that your “verdict” has negatively impacted several aspiring farmers. Please revisit your synopsis of this “experiment” of yours and find some positive examples of other young farmers that ARE making it and share with your followers. I doubt I’ll see this comment posted. While I do wish you well, There are a lot of positive examples out there.”

Had to share…

The Slaughtering of Animals

I had the opportunity to join a small farm as the called in a small, mobile slaughter truck that came in and slaughtered a cow and a Mulefoot hog.  It was a calm and quick .22 shot to the head.  The use of a mobile unit coming to the farm is preferred because the pigs live a happy, healthy life on the farm and to truck them away would add undue stress.  They were then processed in the space of about 30-40 minutes a piece.  It was amazing to watch, but unnerving at the same time.  I appreciate animals for food so much more now.  What was even more amazing was listening to the slaughterer and the farmer discuss the current affairs of big agribusiness and factory farms and how sad the condition of our food supply system is in.  My new favorite quote is the farmer saying “Pigs in factory farms are merely holograms of the real thing.”   The following pictures are a bit graphic.

 

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Local Wheat

Here is a pic of the wheat we grew here at the Inn from some local seed stock…  I have never actually seen wheat growing.  It’s a blast teaching the kids about wheat and how you make bread and cereal and all the wonderful other things that are associated with it.  True food, not processed.

Wheat from Dunbar Farms, Southern Oregon

We have spread some wheat berries from Dunbar Farm around our garden a few months ago when it was really cold out.  Actually, it was our chief maintenance man, Trapper who grabbed a handful back in February when I was toiling with what to do with them.  Well, now that it’s warm, and the sun is shining, this is what we have…

 This is a great example of natural selection.  This wheat is grown in this area and selected for these growing condition.  I’m not sure of the lineage of this red wheat before I got it, only that it is an heirloom variety…  But we have kept it going for another season.  Perhaps we will continue to replant it season after season and show how this wheat is much better than GM seeds that have no value after it’s planted.  My seeds have history and can be replanted year after year, adapted to this region, unlike the genetically modified wheat that can only be planted for one season, then it’s lost.  Only time and people can decide what’s better.

Farmer Platon Getting Ready to Plant Our Heirloom Tomatoes

Here is Platon working the land and planting his tomato plants.  Don’t know where is farmer hat is…  Can’t wait till we can feature these tomatoes on our Summer menu!

Join Me In July As I Cook For a Fantastic Farm to Fork Event July 23rd

I will be excitedly joining Matthew Domingo, Director of Farm to fork Events to be a guest Chef for his July 23rd event at Willow-Witt Ranch in Ashland featuring their wonderful pastured pork and goat.  Enjoy wines by Weisinger’s Winery as we celebrate local farmers and wineries and enjoy food right at the source.  It will be a fantastic opportunity to meet the ranchers and learn about what goes into a fun and fabulously prepared dinner.   Farm to Fork events have become known for their interactive dining formats and this evening will prove to be no different.  Come join us and see what’s new from The Jacksonville Inn.

New Growing Medium.

We are experimenting with a new growing medium for our micro greens.  It’s natural clay pellets that wick water up.  In the bottom of the pan is natural, nitrogen rich water with the clay on top.  I have sprinkled pea seeds on top.  I then covered it with plastic wrap so the peas can take on the nutrient rich water and then germinate.  I’m hoping this will eliminate the need for soil and will make the growing process quicker, cleaner and more efficient.

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?

Cooking up a Story…

One of the most comprehensive websites I’ve come across that covers everything from people and local farms to sustainable living.  Stop by for the latest food news and how it affects you.  Great stuff.  “Bringing the people behind our food to life”.

 

 

Spring Garden Prep

We are starting to get things ready for our spring garden.  The hibiscus plants that that were planted some 20 years ago have been removed and transplanted to allow more sunshine for the new seedlings.  We will also be expanding the garden area so we can build on our success from last season…

Hibiscus plants removed

 

ALL hibiscus removed.  Will be re-planted with a larger variety of edible flowers like nasturtiums.

 

Almost all of what you see should be expanded to garden space

Onion Soup

Here we take a super rich and creamy sweet onion soup and garnish with pickled chanterelles and duck confit.  We then take caramelized onion soup, shape it into croutons using agar agar and complete the dish with micro winter kale from the garden…

THRIVE Farmer’s Dinner Video

Here is a short video of the THRIVE dinner that happened at Roxyann Winery in September.  Thanks for all that came out!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SemHOFYIeqI

Chanterelle Bisque

Here’s a nice soup we just started.  We are using chanterelles from the Oregon Coast to make a silky bisque and pairing it with duck confit, pickled chanterelles, shaved French Breakfast Radish from our gardens, pickled red onions and micro arugula from our kitchen grow lights.  The rich, earthy bisque pairs so well with the salty confit, sweet/sour pickled chanterelles and onions and the spicy radish and arugula.  We will be finishing it off with fresh ground hazelnut smoked pepper.

Sous Vide Filet Crusted With Rogue Creamery Blue

WIth Crispy Potatoes and Peas and Carrots (5-Color Baby Carrots from our garden…)

Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin

Grilled Peaches, Fresh Corn Polenta and Garden Greens…

Fresh From the Garden today.

This is great.  We are already planning out Fall planting.

Garden Progress

Some new photos…

                         

Rogue Flavor Dinner Coming! September 19th.

On Sunday, September 19th, Farmers and Chefs from the Valley will be getting together at Roxyann Winery to create a memorable 5 course meal to support THRIVE.  I will be working with Bradford Family Farm and their wonderful chickens to create the entrée course.  There will be many farmers and chefs participating and this will be a great opportunity to meet local chefs and farmers and see what’s going on locally.  Like I say, plant a garden and save the world.  I hope to see you there.  Buy your tickets today here:

Rogue Flavor Dinner Tickets

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