Archive for Food

My Backyard Farming Adventure

Last summer I explored the idea of an organic farm in my backyard. I had Green City Growers come out and give me a quote, but just couldn’t justify the expense.

This year, a colleague told me about Square Foot Gardening.  This is the approach that the Green City Growers use.  Each raised bed is divided into a grid of 1 foot squares.  Each square has a different crop, and can be replanted several times throughout the year.  This approach takes very little space and is very easy to maintain.

I built 2 2×3 planters and planted with:

  • mixed salad greens
  • sumer squash
  • cucumbers
  • green beans
  • cherry tomatoes
  • big boy tomatoes
  • parsley
  • oregano
  • dill
  • basil

So far so good! I love going outside in the morning before work to water the garden and pick salad greens to bring to work for lunch.  It makes me feel really grounded and relaxed.

There have been some downsides lessons learned, but I’ll save those for another post…

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The Urban Farm

I met with the guys from Green City Growers  and was super impressed.  (As I mentioned in my post last week, they are the guys who installed a roof-top organic farm for B.Good burgers.)  They arrived for the appointment on time and we took a quick walk around my yard.  They analyzed the amount of light and shade in each area, and we discussed how to fit the raised beds into the existing landscaping.  We then sat down to talk about the different options they offer.

Different Bed Sizes:

They offer different bed sizes with small being 4×4, medium 4×8 and large 4×12.  They can also do custom shapes.  For example, in my yard a 2×8 box will work better than the 4×4 but will cost the same because the total square footage is the same.  Regardless of size, however, the price for the bed includes the following:

  • set up
  • irrigation system with timers
  • growing medium
  • plants

Maintenance Plans:

Sample farm plan (used with permisiion from Green City Growers)

Sample farm plan (used with permission from Green City Growers)

Once you decide to move forward with your new farm, you have several different options for maintenance:

  • Weekly maintenance: For a weekly fee which varies depending on the size of the bed you have chosen, Green City will come to your house every week and water, prune, harvest or whatever else needs to be done.  This is a good option for people who like the idea of a vegetable garden, but don’t have the time or skill to take care of it properly.
  • Monthly consults: For $85, the guys will come in once a month to check in on your garden.  They will help you fix any problems that may have cropped up and do some maintenance on the garden if needed.  This is a good option if you like gardening and don’t mind doing most of the work yourself, but could still use a professional consult once in a while to make sure you are doing things right.
  • Self farming: If you are a pretty skilled gardener and feel you can go it alone, for $175 Green City will provide a 1 time consultation and tutorial on how to maintin your garden.  They will also come by for a visit one month later to see how you and your farm are doing.

This seems like a really intriguing option.  I’ve been using Boston Organics and have not been entirely happy.  The idea of being able to harvest vegetables from my own backyard is really appealing.  Now I just need to run the numbers…

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An organic farm in your own backyard

Newly Installed Farm in Brookline (Courtesy of the Green City Growers stream on Flickr)

Newly Installed Farm in Brookline (Courtesy of the Green City Growers stream on Flickr)

I found out last week that B.Good, one of my favorite Boston area food establishments, has done something that makes me love them even more.  In addition to their delicious mango smoothies and baked sweet potato fries, they have installed an organic rooftop farm at their Brookline location!  Yes, that’s right, an organic rooftop farm!

The farm was installed and maintained by a Somerville company called Green City Growers.  This innovative company installs raised-bed organic farms in urban areas.  They can use a space as small as 4 ft by 4 ft.  They will either teach you how to care for your farm yourself, or they will come and tend it for you.  It’s a great alternative to a CSA, and I’ve decided to look into it for my own backyard.  I have a consult set up with Gabe next week and will keep you posted as I find out more!

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CSA Update- Week 1

When I received my first delivery from Boston Organics I didn’t think there was that much in the box.  I had ordered the smallest box after all.  It included the following:

  • 2 zucchini
  • 4 apples
  • 1 bag of carrots
  • 1 head of lettuce
  • 2 kiwi
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 pears
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 lemon

“No problem” I thought.  I can get through all of this in a week.  Well, I was wrong.  I gave the carrots to a friend, had another friend over for dinner and ate more fruit than usual, and still had a lot left by Wednesday afternoon (the day before my second delivery)  I found myself scrambling.  What would I do with a full head of lettuce, 2 zucchini, a cucumber and a lemon?

Thank goodness for the internet and a comment from a CSA savvy friend who had made a comment about lettuce soup a few weeks ago.  Lettuce soup you say?  Yes, lettuce soup.  Sounds pretty terrible, but tastes surprisingly good!  A quick Google search brought me to a recipe that sounded pretty straight forward.   The result was a green soup that tasted like a combination of potato and cream of brocolli.  As I said, tasty.   Okay, the lettuce was taken care of so I moved on the zucchini.  A quick and delicious batch of zucchini bread fixed that problem.

Next I had to figure out how to eat all of this soup and zucchini bread since my next veggie box had arrived! Well another friend over for dinner solved the soup problem, and zucchini bread freezes well.   Hopefully this will be the last time I face this problem since  I cut down my order frequency to every other week…

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It’s Maple Sugar Time

A couple of weeks ago a blog post came through on TreeHugger talking about the effect of climate change on the maple syrup industry in the Northeast.  According to the post, tree migration, warmer weather in the winter months and shorter “cold recharge cycles” are to blame.  I would like to add severe weather to the list, since Western Massachusetts was hit with a huge ice storm this year, which devastated trees of all kinds and also devastated the maple syrup industry in Massachusetts.

These developments are really sad, and upset me on a very personal level.  Every year a group of girlfriends and I make the trek to Western Mass or Southern Vermont for our annual “Maple Weekend.”  We have a core group of five, and periodically there are guest appearances by other friends or family members.  This year we had our first outing with a baby, when one of my friends brought her 8 month old daughter for her first maple experience.

Regardless of the destination, the trip consists of making the rounds from one sugar shack to the next.  This year we had a light year, visiting only 3 or 4 shacks on our one day outing.  In past years we’ve done two day trips  and visit up to 5 shacks per day.  We even have a theme song that we listen to as the expedition gets under way (courtesy of BV): “Maple Syrup Time” by Moxy Fruvous (a cover of a Pete Seger song).

Red Bucket Sugar Shack

Red Bucket Sugar Shack (That's steam from boiling the maple sap!)

The one thing that all of the shacks we visit has in common is that they boil their own syrup, other than that they are very different.  We usually start the day at a shack that serves a solid breakfast complete with all the maple syrup you can eat.  One year we went to a place where they gave out shots of maple syrup.  Yumm!!!

Next we move on to a place with maple cotton candy and maple roasted nuts.  They even have maple kettle corn.  After a couple of additional stops we end the day at Scary Jerry’s, where they make the most amazing maple bakes beans, cole slaw and sugar on snow (you guessed it, maple syrup served over actual snow).  You can only imagine what its like in the car home with 5 of us all hopped up on  maple sugar!

The sign inside Scary Jerry's

The sign inside "Scary Jerry's"

This weekend is one that I look forward to every year, and the years that I have missed have been very sad for me.  I can’t imagine what it would be like if the maple industrydisappeared from New England.  While I would be sad for myself and my friends, I would be even more sad for the people who have dedicated their lives to maintain this age- old tradition.  I don’t think any of them are getting rich as it is, and if they didn’t have maple sugar to rely on for income, I’m not sure what they would do for work.  The areas they live in are quite rural and I don’t think there is much opportunity for work outside agri-tourism.

In the meantime, I plan to do my part to stop climate change by buying local and supporting these great entrepreneurs!  Here are some of our favorites:

New Favorite This Year:

Hanging Mountain Farm
(and they are open year round)(Amazing Oatmeal & Egg Bake)

413-527-0710

188 North Rd, Westhampton, MA 01027
hangingmountainfarms.com

Old Stand Bys:

South Face Farm Sugarhouse

755 Watson-Spruce Corner Road
Ashfield, MA 01330

413-628-3268
http://www.southfacefarm.com/

Red Bucket Sugar Shack

413-238-7710

584 Kinnebrook Rd, Worthington, MA 01098
(great variety of products including kettle corn and cotton candy)

Windy Hill Farm (Scary Jerry’s)
West St, Worthington, MA 01098
(savory lunch stop and Sugar On Snow)

High Hopes Sugarhouse
413-238-5919

1132 Huntington Rd, Worthington, MA
(don’t eat her but stop for the photos)

Happy mapling!

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Organic Fruits and Vegetable Delivered Right to Your Door

Home delivery service for organic fruits and vegetables has to be a good thing, right?  I’m not entirely sure…

Yesterday I signed up for Boston Organics, a local service which does home delivery of organic fruits, vegetables and other products.  I found out about the service at the D2E Expo I went to a couple of weekends ago.  Seems like a great idea and was reasonably priced.  How can it be bad, right?

Well I was feeling very proud of myself after signing up and updated my Facebook status with the following:

“Just signed up for Boston Organics. What’s better than organic fruit and vegetables delivered to your door?”

Here are some of the comments I got:

“be careful – it is a good thing for a few weeks and then suddenly you are trapped in your apartment by kale and strange citrus fruits which seem to be multiplying in your refrigerator every time you turn your back on them!!! Or I guess I could actually cook my deliveries…”

“I agree with the comment above – you hit a certain point where you get strangely psychotic when faced with yet more vegetables, and you do crazy things like holding a giant parsnip to your forehead to be a vegetable unicorn! No….more….veggies…..”

Now I’m a little scared.  I ordered the smallest box available, so let’s hope I’m not over-run with produce.  I’ll also have some out of town guests next week, who will hopefully help me eat all the veggies.  I guess if it’s too much I can cut down to every other week.  I’ll have to wait and see.

My first delivery is next Thursday.  Wish me luck!

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Times, They are A Changin’

A few days ago I wrote about my experience last Fall trying to find a contractor that could source green materials.  I figured that my experience would be the same while dealing with caterers for my father’s upcoming birthday bash.  I’m glad I was wrong!

My father is turning 80, and we want to celebrate in style.  My mother decided that we should throw him a big party and invite everyone my father cares about and who cares about him.  We’re renting a place and getting outside caterers, which is way more effort than my family has put into any party in a long time!  My job is to work with the caterer to handle all of the logistics.

I called the caterer my mom chose this morning.  We were discussing table linens and dishes and she gave me my options: china or premium plastic.  Hmmm.  China is more fancy than we need for this party, but I just can’t in good conscience order the plastic.  I mentioned this to the caterer, and started talking about other options.  Unlike the contractors I dealt with for my home repairs, her response was “Wait, there is another option. There’s stuff that’s, um, what’s the word that starts with a C?” “Compostable?” I ask.  “Yes!” she says. “We’ve had some vendors come in to talk to us about them.  Let me talk to my boss and see what we can do.”

I can’t tell you how happy I was!  Having a little more time on my hands these days, I was ready to source the plates and cups myself.  (A simple Google search returned several vendors including:  www.ecowise.com, www.MyGreenSupply.com. and www.biodegradablestore.com.) However,  it was a great surprise to find I didn’t have to.  Next time I talk to her, I’m going to bring up using only organic, locally grown produce.  We’ll see how she handles that.  Based on our plate conversation, I’m very optimistic.

Times they are a changin’!

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