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Tag Archives: Organic Living

The Lorax, Walmart & Making your own detergent

Do you believe in signs, coincidence or the law of attraction if so keep reading if not you might find the following thoughts mildly amusing, either way its worth a try.

I get dizzy when I just hear the name Wal Mart and imagine isles packed floor to ceiling with color coded options. Facing the department store equipped with a list, shopping went swiftly. The ingredients to making your own laundry detergent are easy to find on a bottom shelf, sitting all right next to each other. Wal Mart apparently knows their DIY customer base. Spending a mere fraction of the cost than for regular detergent felt like an accomplishment in itself. The largest aspect, however, is knowing exactly what goes into such a frequently used household item. I was gloating a bit when I finally used the first scoop. I even added fresh lavender from an in town farm to the mix.

Shaving the soap into the bowl took the longest. Nothing better than exerting a little sweat when it comes to ‘assembling’ your seemingly own product. I call it the IKEA effect. Its no newly discovered fact that people have a stronger sense of appreciation when it comes to doing things themselves at least in part. Business owners are capitalizing on the notion more and more, not just for their customers experience but as a cost incentives to their operations as well.

As much as I loathe enormous corporations a la Wal Mart I can’t deny a sense of appreciation for the access to DIY products they provide. The consumer does hold the power even if persuasion to buying is tugging on them like a small child needing to be held. While I was leaving the store I spotted a poster of the Lorax movie near the exit/entry way. Schlepping my reusable bag including a big box of Borax, it became instantly clear why Dr. Seuss had chosen this particular character name and title.

The road to low impact living really starts here – at least for me. Its a renewed commitment to the cause of giving a damn. The resources are all right there at the very fingertips getting ready to send these lines out into the internet. All you gotta do is start by taking a look.

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Thanks to DIYnatural for the inspiration!

~ Live well while using less

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Monsoon Season

You can’t have a Farmers Market without the land & crops getting an adequate amount of rainfall. However, conducting a market while it rains can prove to be a real challenge.  During yesterday’s East Atlanta Village Market a storm hit the east side of town…hard. Heavy rainfall started only seconds after I had received my SNAP & Wholesome Wave tokens. Baby in tow, I rushed underneath Little Tart Bakeshop’s tent, alongside one of the market’s musicians, a violin player wearing her tip jar cleverly strapped as a backpack.  What happened next can only be described as an accelerated storm front whipping across us, with continuous heavy rainfall accompanied by strong winds, ripping on all of the vendors tents. Every now and then sunshine peeked in the distance, toying with the hope of all market participants that this could end any second now.

Peek the pictures of the treacherous down-pour:

The market manager, noticeable in part in the distance, is checking the sky to look for signs for market to be continued or broken down.

Vendors lowered their tents to keep wind and rain at bay. Regardless of the storm, a few shoppers continued to show up.

Children and their parents stayed at the market even during the hardest of rain

Children running in the distance.

Arguably my favorite shot. Collected water collapses from Lil Tart shops tent, at this point we were soaked holding on to the tent’s posts to keep it from being blown away.

Istill managed to buy a few items; thankfully & due to the help of various folks, who scrambled to get me a feasible umbrella, kept my baby & I entertained, dry & save for a couple of hours at the market, plus of course the farmers who nourish our lives!

Furthermore, did you know that you can use the same tokens from East Atlanta’s market at Grant Park Farmers Market on Sundays? If you ever forget a few items & have left over tokens to spare, you don’t have to wait a whole week to make use of them.

I thought my experience at the market was yet again a real testament to community and how well people can work together and stand their ground. It is certainly something we need more of in today’s times.

~ Cheerio

Kitchen table antics – Spotlight on the ‘little guys’

How many of us judge a fast food joint by their fries/sides, religious affiliations a la Chik-Fil-A aside? McDonalds’s reigns over Burger Kings’ & Checkers trumps Wendy’s – facts people! The most memorable meals have all star players, consistent quality across, from the main course to a simple garnish. When the salad dressing gets equal amount of love then the roasted Turkey, life gets infinitely sweeter.

Three unsung kitchen table heroes that could use a lil love & attention are the creamer in your coffee/tea,  soup & salad dressing. You don’t have to have a super fancy mixer, such as the Vitamix to make the following recipes but that machine simply has the power to get ‘er done right. To an average person income, there are many ways to afford this item. The company constantly runs promos at major outlet stores (COSCO or Whole Foods), healthy lifestyle expos (I got mine from the Atlanta Alive expo) and on their website. You can even install a payment plan. As with everything, it pays for itself over time depending on how much you use it.

As ode to Hempseed, one of my favorite most versatile ingredients that has amazing nutritional compounds, I’ve located a couple of recipes with the superfood at their center. Furthermore, Blueberries serve as a seasonal food inspiration for the soup. So contemplate and feast on these selected recipes, composed by fellow foodie nerds.

Creamer aka Vanilla Cacao Hemp Seed Milk 

  • 3 cups water
  • 1/3 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla bean powder or 1 TB. vanilla extract
  • Stevia (NuNaturals brand) to taste
  • 1 to 2 TB. of raw Cacao or Carob powder

Blend until creamy! Add to beverage of your liking or drink by itself

Next up Soup: Raw Blueberry Apple Soup

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • Juice of 1-1/2 limes
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup frozen unsweetened apple juice concentrate
  • 1/4 cup nonfat plain Atlanta Fresh Artisan CreameryGreek yogurt
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • Mint leaves, for garnish (optional)

and last but not least the dressingGreen Goddess Dressing with Hemp Hearts

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced into large pieces
  • 3/4 cup hemp hearts
  • 1 cup fresh parsley
  • 3/4 cup fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp sucanat
  • pinch of cayenne
  • (makes 3 cups)

Place all ingredients in blender with cucumbers at the bottom and grind until smooth consistency is achieved!

Now, please follow the links for more detailed directions but feel free to tinker and switch out ingredient as you like. Experimenting is part of the fun!

Cheers & to your health!

Explore Natures Strength – Wild Edibles Demystified

When a chef tells me, he or she prefers ingredients via a particular farm, I don’t just ask why but also quickly be-line to that farm stand. Chef Angus just purchased a few vegetables from Crack in the Sidewalk Farmlet, when I encountered him at the East Atlanta Farmers Market. Angus, who’s previously incorporated local farm goods from Many Fold Farms at Miller Union, has come up with a deliciously distinct late night menu for Octopus Bar in East Atlanta Village. Who says your taste buds don’t need indulgence at 3am!

While browsing the vegetable selection at Crack in the Sidewalk’s stand, bags of small leaved, dark green salad mixes, topped with wood sorrel flowers catch my eye. My senses tell me this is what I want! The wild edible salad mix includes next to Wood Sorrel, Henbit, Dead-nettle alongside other Georgia native greens. The flavors are so potent and nutrient dense it can be used as a garnish, mixed in with cultivated lettuces or as an added spice to soups, terrains, simply let your creativity run wild – pun intended.

Coincidentally, Chris & Isiah who run the 2 acre Farmlet are offering a Wild Edibles workshop the same weekend. The farm is nestled next to a golf course and an array of sporadically populated and foreclosed homes. The couple moved to the location roughly four years ago. Since then next to cultivating plants via traditional agricultural methods, the lands native plants have become part of their harvest. A quite genius approach to farming utilizes the adaptable strength of wild plants to create an ecologically balanced & diversified approach to winning food from the land.

‘With Foraging’ , as Chris explains, ’there is a significant amount of opportunity, to connect with the areas around you.’ Once you become aware of edible wild greens, berries, pecans etc. you can find them everywhere, even in downtown major cities, parks or the middle of neighborhoods. Miseducation throughout generations, however, has perpetuated the stigma of wild foods being poisonous and/or polluted. In reality the amount of poisonous wild edibles is rather small and wild foods that might even kill you are proportionally speaking even smaller. The advantages of wild foods next to promoting health and self-sufficiency, also include:

  • Easier to cultivate due to plants strong sense of adaptability and resistance to bugs (seed saving)
  • Incredibly nutrient dense
  • Healing properties
  • Young leaves are most tender and delicious
  • Take little to no work
  • Free

While nature creates abundance and can in fact include poisonous species, it is important to study plants in order to know how to identify them correctly. Nevertheless, the healing compounds of plantains for instance can aid bee stings or snake bites or consider the super food characteristics of Mulberries, which can literally be found anywhere in Atlanta, making wild foods a worthwhile study for the adventurous urban or suburban dweller.

100% Heirloom with Georgia Natives on its sleeve

Noring Farm is nestled at the end of a slender country road mainly populated by horse pastures. Newton county, as farmer Andrew Norman mentions, an agrarian county, provides a tremendous network. Neighbors are exchanging wheat straw, manure, advice – whatever fits their needs as they arise. During my visit a neighbor takes her dog for a walk down the farms’ long wooded driveway, a regular occurrence, illustrating further what a healthy, sharing community looks like. As simple as it sounds, coming from Atlanta , where people fight over parking spots & BBQ smoke, this strikes me as a small miracle.

The farm is in its second spring and soil amendments are still shaping up to their nutrient dense potential. Andrew grew up on a farm & knows well how to perfect the ground that not long ago served as horse pasture. I get a  chance to try a few of his heirloom vegetables. Immediately, my taste buds are engaged by their savoring complexities. Heirloom produce reminds me of an exquisite handcrafted piece of chocolate. The purple asparagus I taste comes straight out of the ground and incorporates various flavors as you keep eating it. The original carrot, Andrew enlightens me, was almost black due to its nutrient dense pigmentation. Every vegetable you can think off has numerous sub-varieties, each with its own flavor, colouring and shape.

Noring Farms, however, doesn’t just harvest exotic plants and French Copper Maran chicken eggs but is also home to a variety of Georgia native fruit trees, such as the Mayhaw & Chicken Saw Plums. The unique character of the farm reflects the individuals who own it, show casing and preserving varieties that are inspiring to any chef, whilst incorporating an indigenous variation of produce along side. Check out the full interview & take a peak at the farm during its early spring planting face below.

~ Live Well & Be Merry ~

Food Warrior Winter Internship 2012

The Funny Farm – Sustainability for Suburbia

How do you run a fully functioning farm in a suburban neighborhood setting? Duane Marcus would certainly know. He’s been implementing a completely unique farming model over the past five years. Duane is well known in the Atlanta gardening community & has over 30 years of organic farming experience. Currently, he manages the Decatur Farmers Market, while selling his own harvested vegetables & herbs. A personal favorite of mine: the Funny Farm’s braising mix that includes edible flowers, blossoms & a simple variety of dark greens, excellent if flash-sauteed with a hint of braggs or even as salad mix.

When I show up on the coattails of a warmer than usual Georgia Winter everything in his garden is starting to or already is flowering. I find him in the back of his house, prepping seedlings for soil transplanting.

Astoundingly, the 3 acres surrounding his home in Stone Mountain, Georgia are producing a large variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, woody flowers – you name it. Hard to believe it was only five years ago Duane plowed & dumped a truck load of compost on the ground of what looked like a typical suburb front yard, mostly commuter grass & a few perennials here and there. He really knows how to utilize the setting of his land! On the edges near the road where it tends to be more shady, mostly fruit trees have been planted. He explains that location and environment resemble the trees natural habitat. The harvest success of last years manking cherry tree of over 5000 cherries, echos his statement. In addition, the economy of planting manking makes even more sense for suburbanites, not requiring a second variation of cherry tree to pollinate. Maximizing space usage is what this type of gardening is all about.

One gardening bed was in fact over planted with a secondary crop. Duane explains that once he puts carrot seedlings in the ground it takes a couple of weeks for them to germinate; meanwhile he plants arugula on top, utilizing the rich organic properties of his soil, enabling him to harvest 100 lbs of arugula before the carrots get pulled out.

Farmer Marcus’ bag of farming tricks seems limitless. I listen closely to him describing adequate water usage. Most people, he notes, tend to over water, killing their plants faster in fact than not watering enough. He typically waters very little and during drought seasons he hand waters so he can put the water right when & where he needs it. Luckily, this particular suburb was designed with a .5 acre pond as well, situated conveniently next to Duane’s backyard. Every fully functioning farm will contain a body of water or be able to access one nearby, a crucial element necessary for livestock and crops to flourish.

If you need more advice, inspiration or just want to see what happens at the Funny Farm check out their blog or sign up for a gardening class. Hurry they sell out quickly! As a big coffee & tea drinker, for example, I am learning how to use these compounds for growing mushrooms. (read more – here) Neat – right?!

My favorite aspect about visiting the Funny Farm has to be the application of permaculture principals to a suburban setting. The amount of adaptability and creativity we can employ when it comes to growing food is solely dependent on our drive. With resources present in our communities of people, land and nature we have what it takes. One of the most reiterated common sense principals every farmer will tell you: Use what you got & make it work!

~Live well & Be merry~

Food Warrior Internship Winter 2012

Spring Gardening – the Urban Outdoors

Its 1 pm and already 76º outside. The South is getting their summer early apparently. If you believe in climate change or not it doesn’t change the fact that its unseasonably warm at this time of the year & since the Mayans ended their calendar in 2012, why not take a look at a couple survival tactics, starting right here in your spring/early summer garden – 2012 style. If you are a ‘profesh’ hobby gardener or venturing from the occasional house plant into a more daring territory – the outside, here are a couple ideas.

If you didn’t make it to the ALFI Fruit Tree sales earlier this year (Atlantans), its not too late to pick up a berry, vine or any other fruit tree you might enjoy. I chose a black berry bush since it doesn’t require another bush for cross pollination, ‘just’ bees. So far the plant seems happy.

Pick out a few different soils and see which one work best for your garden environment. I usually go with Farmer D organic compost but in this case I was far from a Whole Foods & thought why not opt for Whitney Gardens instead of Miracle Grow. It reminded me of Whitney Houston but mainly I like to diversify when it comes to buying different brands rather than going for the dominant brand on the market.

Get a bird feeder – with birds currently migrating you might attract a few interesting species. I am a Finch fan & got Finch specific food, the rain has been keeping them away, well & perhaps the shady, hidden location of my garden.

Pick out your favorite plants. What a no-brainer right?! Don’t just select for cooking, this baby lavender can be used in a soothing eye mask or bath water as well.

Don’t be shy or slow – if you see something on the side of the road, pick it up. It’s free or as the saying goes: One man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure. How do you think I got this giant orange plastic beaut’?!

Get your grill ready for making your summer even more awesome with your friends and neighbors. In the mean time find a cover to keep the rust away during the rainy season. Be inventive – use what you got & save your hard earned bucks. I used the packaging from a pillow top mattress cover for instance.

Finally, invest in a solar powered outdoor light – it won’t increase your power bill plus gives your garden the 21st century update to go with the ancient knowledge of using coffee grinds & kitchen scraps to fertilize your plants.

~ Live well & Be merry ~

Decimal . Place Farm – 18 Acres of Goat Heaven

On the outskirts of the East side of Atlanta lays the popular Hipster landmark the Starlight Drive In; once passed, the eye meets billboards, gas stations and neighborhoods sprawling of a main road. Inconspicuously tugged away in the midst of a sleepy neighborhood are 18 acres of goat country – white Saanen dairy goat ‘country’ to be exact.

It’s a dreary day when I pull up to Decimal Place Farm. I know I am at the right place when I see a line of white goats standing on the higher ground looking towards me. Nestled at the end of a cul da sec Mary Rigdon has appropriately named her farm Decimal Place Farm.  She walks swiftly towards the car and directs me to the gate that leads to the goats and milking facility. I notice the acres of land surrounding us as the car slowly follows behind her steps in the mud.

Mary has been a dairy goat farmer for over 20 years and the land in Conley, Georgia for 17 years in her possession. It took patience and perseverance to acquire this land. Once she owned it, a milking facility had to be built and the right dairy equipment needed to be purchased. The process required assessing her resources critically, understanding how power lines were laid out & addressing functionality by getting the goats in and out of the buildings most efficiently. All of which she accomplished by using the means she had. In a time of credit defaults Mary’s sensible approach makes her somewhat of a modern day hero.

Her goats are having babies during the first few months of the year and I get a brief look into just how busy she gets. Mary is feeding the babies and checking on the becoming mothers periodically, meanwhile the rest of the herd still has to be milked. The days have a rhythm. She takes me outside to one of the grasing areas, while telling me how her lifestyle approach may be more of what people are talking about now and farm life is seeping into the mainstream but she has been living this way since the early 80s. She explains that in order to build the herd and utilize the land fencing had to be done. Grazing plots, comprised of clover, rye grass, a nitrogen fixing grass mix were created for limit grazing spans also called mammoth grazing. Mary tiled a few rows of soil for crop mob to come in and finish the sowing for new grazing plots. Crop Mob will also fix one of her fences and help get debris out of the creek.

Crop Mob, an initiative of young farmers and land enthusiasts, come together to help local farmers with a variety of projects around their farm. It builds the type of community interaction less reliant on monetary exchange. Being outside and learning some hands on farming know how, derived from years of experience, are plenty of reward for getting your hands dirty. At the end of each crop mob-tastic work day a dinner is shared between all the volunteers and farmers.

At the end of our excursion through the 18 acres of Decimal Place Farm, she hands me back my seven month old, that’s been carefully observing everything from her arms. She tells me about groups of children coming to the farm to learn about dairy goats, land preservation, gardening and making a living in this manner. When I ask her if she could envision anything for the future of the American food system, what would that look like, she takes time to think before answering. In her point of view we all receive the same amount of hours in the day. What we do with them is up to us & ultimately defines who we are. She questions peoples ingenuity or lack thereof. When a neighbor gives you grits in exchange for some of your goods, you learn how versatile that item can be. Furthermore, she adds she doesn’t like okra or rather the way most people in the south cook it but its an awfully space conducive and high yield type of vegetable. Therefore, she researched how to prepare Okra resulting in a dish sans a slightly gooey texture and utilizes its properties on her farm.

Did I mention just how delicious Decimal Place Farm goat cheese is? Seriously, you can’t go wrong with trying some of the creative flavors (i.e. amaretto orange chevre, pecan craison chevre, and cracked peppercorn chevre) either at a local health food stores such as Rainbow Grocery Market or Pine Street Market. During the summer time, Decimal Place Farm chevre, tuma or cheddar style goat cheeses can be located at the East Atlanta Farmers Market, Peachtree Road Market and Grant Park Farmers Market.

~ Enjoy, live well & be kind to one another

C.H. – Real Time Farms Winter Food Warrior, 2012

A busy week’s (local) little helper

Every mother will tell you sleeping in is like a gift from God & the runner up well that’s coffee. In a week filled with WIC appointments, Farmers Markets visits & tax preparations discovering the deliciously wholesome Blue Donkey Iced Coffee made my week. It’s the little things they say & ‘they’ are right!

This past Saturday Blue Donkey Iced Coffee held a tasting at Urban Cannibals, a bodega grocery store run by a beautiful couple, the two self-proclaimed head cannibals Doria Roberts & Calavino Donati. The place is charming. You can pick up your CSA via Destiny Organics & Riverview Farms there, along with a quick bite to eat and other local items anything from candles to cleaning supplies. A one stop ‘loconomy’ shop.

Honestly, in this day & age I judge businesses by their online presence. Thankfully Urban Cannibals is on top of their social media game. It was their facebook page that alerted me to check out how delicious Blue Donkey Iced Coffee truly is. The tasting had me convinced as soon as the creamy, lightly coffee flavored & just enough sweetened substance hit my tongue. Blue Donkey’s products are simple. Three ingredients, coffee, milk & sugar – carefully sourced. Arabia coffee beans are roasted in a small-batch roaster at the company’s facility, combined with Sparkman’s milk and a little sugar – voila.

You can currently find them at Urban Cannibals and Candler Park Market. Surely it won’t be long until they’ll be right under your nose at farmers markets, co-ops & natural food stores. I am not going to tell you what to do or anything but in twitter terms:

Blue Donkey > insert can of popular soda.

live well & be kind to one another

C.H. – Real Time Food Warrior, Winter 2012

A Beginning

The weather’s been good to us this week, yet again.  The land must’ve loved the warming sun enabling plenty of photosynthesis. Thankfully, the year’s mild Georgia Winter helped provide a more consistent vegetable supply to local stores as well as growers at farmers markets.

This past Monday on a misty foggy evening I paid the local new grocery store a visit, this time however, for different business than usual. Boxcar Grocer was throwing a big opening celebration & everyone from Food Artisans to Politicians seemed to be present. What a perfect way to start the internship & getting the word out about Real Time Farms. People were receptive, enthusiastic and grateful. I can’t help but notice the enthusiasm the local food movement is enjoying vibrating through the various fabrics of society. We all know as a collective there is a task at hand.

Finally on Friday afternoon I got the chance to interview South African native, local dietician & fellow food warrior Jess Avasthi. Both of us baby in tow, soaking up some sun on a bench in urban agriculture heaven called Truly Living Well Farm.

Jess whom I met one week prior at the annual Fruit Tree Sale put on by ALFI (Atlanta Local Food Initiative) found out about RTF via comfood, a listserve linking individuals together interested in community food security. She has a strong passion for good, delicious food that’s accessible. Other factors that compelled her to the internship include getting people to realize how to source the right foods and simply that everyone deserves good food.

[The reason food transparency is so important,] she continues, is next to food being a basic need, a form of medicine, & because we have to eat everyday it’s only fair that we know where it comes from, who makes a profit off of it.  “We’d like to think it to be fair, just and balanced” she says, a pause ensues “It’s a consumer’s right” she continues, both of us knowing that’s the goal of the sum of our herein efforts.

When quizzed about what her favorite food documentary is, food inc. may seem like a rather obvious choice but the movie’s relevance resonates in so many different ‘food documentaries’ today. Jess finds the bold, brave statement portrayed of the current food system a double edged sword. On one side we enjoy the fresh options that are created. On the other hand the documentary illuminates the strain that’s being put on the rest of the planet via big AG.

The East Atlanta Farmers Market, Sun in my Belly and the former Dynamic Dish are amongst her Atlanta favorite spots. As a new mom, however, you tend to focus more on immediate at home choices. I am curious to know how her food philosophy is reflected in her baby’s diet. She emphasizes next to making her own baby food from local organic produce that exposing him to the land is an experience she wants to pass on as it was part of her own upbringing. It’s no small feat to dream up a childhood with strong ties to the land in an urban setting. Places like Truly Living Well Farm make these dreams real & that’s only the beginning of what we can do.

As we are embarking on the journey as food warriors we agree on current urban agriculture needing more policy in place, positively impacting every grower. Jess illuminates the potential Atlanta/ Georgia has to become agricultural leader in the South East & a local food movement summed up in three words:  Blossoming – Essential – Accessible.