Friday, December 31, 2010

End of this year's Locavore Challenge

Today is the last day of the 2010 Locavore challenge, and we have already eaten the last meal. I feel it is going out with a whimper. I wasn't able to convince all that many of my friends to join me in the locavore way. Sure, there are plenty of gardeners at the community garden who are local-friendly, but not as much as the folks closer to Ojai. This has been a tough year for many of my friends and others in my community, and I think that has alot to do with why more people didn't sign up.
I'll continue to be a locavore, at least where fruits and veggies are concerned. Every season, my own fruit crops and trading network grow. I am still having trouble getting local meat.
Tonight's plans were cancelled last-minute, and I didn't have much else besides the wonderful veggies from the garden. I stopped in at the garden earlier in the day and enjoyed the sunny weather and the company of other hardy friends, and harvested a huge basket of greens and sunchokes. We decided to stop by Fresh and Easy for some fish. There, we ran into the evening sale, and picked up some non-local salmon. I baked the salmon and served it topped with sauteed leeks, celery, fennel and serrano peppers I had harvested earlier. I served it with Osaka purple mustard cooked in kumquat marmalade with mandarin oranges. We enjoyed a huge sweet potato from the garden, and chunks of Belgian dark chocolate for dessert.
So it was mostly local.
What's for next year? I'll continue with my veggie gardening and increase the variety of fruits. Our two Manzanita olive trees are growing well and the Mission olive tree is producing nicely. This may be the year I figure out how to cure the olives, or at least press them. This year, I have nurtured two grape vines, a Eureka lemon tree, a blackberry vine and two blueberry bushes. I would like to propagate more this year. I would also like to acquire a banana tree and transplant the fig tree into a more desirable location.
It will be a good year I am sure.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Salty Beets

The is about the strangest thing to happen since I have been growing my own local food. Last winter, I planted some beets in an area with poor soil and low water. I harvested a few small beets, but others were eaten by animals and forgotten. There was one beet that survived, and I watered it here and there over the summer and otherwise left it alone.
I had some other beets (Bull's Blood) that were grown in a similar harsh manner and they were the sweetest beets I had ever grown, so I didn't think that this new beet would be any different.
Wow! Was I surprised! The beet (a Detroggia that turned out mostly orange) was small and hard, and there was hardly any sugar in it at all. It was so salty that it tasted like I had already made pickles with it. It was almost too salty to eat, except for small slivers.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Winter Veggies and More

I have been eating more meat and less carb this fall and winter, and doing well with it. Well, this former vegan is a little bit surprised, with all that steak and eggs for breakfast. It's in small quantities, and I still enjoy my greens for winter breakfast, just not over a potato.
The greens are especially nice this season, and I have many colors of chard popping up everywhere in the garden.
We had at least 3 good rains on the community garden so far, and each episode sends out more volunteer favorites. I have a carpet of fennel, wide swaths of baby celery, several types of parsley popping out from underneath the flowers (they seem to enjoy the initial protection), and a nice variety of chards and kales ranging in color from magenta to red to orange to pale lemon yellow to white to green.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Into the Fall

Right now, the Nightshades are starring in the garden. Today I harvested some tiny potatoes. I usually don't get a second crop of potatoes, but this year has been a bit unusual. They are pink and gold fingerlings. The tomatoes are almost finished for the year, but the peppers really haven't peaked yet. Somehow I went hog-wild and ended up with about 39 pepper plants! I am about one third of the way into the tomatillo harvest. They are really sweet and flavorful this year. Here's a recipe for a low-salt sauce I use on chicken.

Nightshade Sauce

8 tomatillos
2 large yellow tomatoes
1 jalapeno or other hot green chile
1/2 t. leek powder
dash cumin (not local, though I would like to try growing it)

Chop and seed chile. Cook in a 1/4 cup of water in a small saucepan until tender. Remove the husks from the tomatillos and chop into large chunks. Chop the tomatoes. Add the tomatillo's and tomatoes to the pan and cook a few minutes until everything is mushy. Run the mixture through a food mill to remove the seeds and skins and return the puree to the pan. Add the leek powder and cumin and cook down until the sauce thickens. Serve over meat or tofu.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Big Haul

Cherry tomatoes have been taking over my patio. Things were getting out of hand. I was harvesting one to two cups a day, turning them into sauce and juice, or just eating them on the run.
I went away for a couple of days and when I returned, I thought there would be too many for me to handle, but when I went to take a look, I found all the plants were stripped. Now I am getting two or three a day. I am not sure what took them all. Squirrels? Crows? People?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Secret Plots

I have a nice tatume summer squash plant, but it has really slowed down production. I know that this is not really true, that there are, in fact, some super secret squashes growing way in the background that I cannot find.
I need to hack back my cocozelle and yellow crookneck plants. The cocozelle is known for traveling quite far, and right now the two branches going in opposite directions take up a total of about 32 square feet. The yellow crookneck (which should be called breakneck, for the speed in which it sends out new branches) has overtaken the butternut squash patch, and I am sure there are more super secret squashes back there, plotting their maturity.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Potatoes

This year, more and more community gardens are trying potatoes, and all of us are getting better at growing them. This year's cool spring has helped.
I haven't been paying all that much attention to my potatoes. They had been looking a bit sad, so I quit hilling them up after a couple of times. Yesterday I decided to take a look in one raised bin. I realized that I still had two plants out of the four small plants I started with. I dug around the largest one and was amazed to find about 6 pounds of the most perfect red potatoes. They were packed so closely together that they all have a nice compact shape and really easy to dig out. The insides are so creamy and white, and they have such a fresh, earthy flavor.
I took two smaller potatoes and buried them in another bin I rarely water. I need to figure out how to keep these small potatoes healthy until next winter, when I can plant them again.
Over the weekend, I planted 4 sweet potato and yam plants, so hopefully they will do as well as the white potatoes.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Summer Squashes are Back

This week was another first first for the year. I harvested my first summer squash, and the much-loved cocozelle is the early winner. I really wanted this variety last year, but it didn't work out, so I am quite pleased to have some this year. Here is how the curcurbit garden population is shaping up in 2010.
Pumpkin: 3 Cinderella, 3 Baby Pam
Winter Squash: 3 butternut, 3 buttercup
Summer Squash: 7 total. At least 1 yellow crookneck, 1 cocozelle, 1 round, probably another yellow crookneck, 1 tatume and the others it's too early to tell.
Oh, did I almost forget to mention all the plants in the backyard! I have 8 bush acorn plants that will be thinned down to 3 or 4 plants, and two chayote plants.
Obviously, I have learned nothing from last year.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Let the Games Begin

I gave a trading partner a couple of malabar spinach seedlings and I got a gift in return. Seems he had ordered some pepper plants and had too many, and was looking for good homes for the rest.
What is a "good home" for a pepper plant? There are a few hot pepper fanatics at the community garden, and I am considered to be one of them. A couple of years ago, I got a few dozen hot pepper plants and distributed them to many other "good homes". Since then, my reputation has followed, and the very hottest peppers have come to me. I can grow them so hot on my baking patio that I have trouble eating them. I think its a really good home.
As a pepper-mom, I have promised to take care of my baby plant, to keep it sequestered, and to save the seeds.
I might be in trouble later today when I try to wash the sunblock out of my eyes, because I planted my new baby plant without wearing gloves. Not recommended. It's a Bhut Jolokia!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Excursion

It was very cold and wintery this afternoon, threatening rain. I felt a bit sorry for the farmer's market, since I have found that it is poorly attended when it is cold, so I decided to stop by and see what is new.
This was my first visit since the market changed location, and I'll tell ya, I was really happy to see how spacious it was, compared with the old location. The place was just crowded with lots of moms and strollers, plenty of toddlers munching on carrots and strawberries.
Now that I am not confined by the 100 miles, farther-away farm-fare looked pretty inviting. I picked up a very large avocado, a basket of crisp Oxnard cucumbers, a 3-pack of Oxnard strawberries, and a bag of Northern California raisins.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Malabar Spinach

Today I took a bit of time for the backyard garden, before the rain starts. I have plenty of smaller cat litter buckets that I use for hauling soils and compost, and they are neatly lined up underneath the roof drip-line to catch any new rain.
And I have another reason not to believe much gardening advice I read on the internet. A couple of years ago, I brought home a cutting of red malabar spinach. I planted it in a tub and left it for a couple of years, with hardly any care. I was afraid I had lost everything during last year's hard frost and the flooding of my basket of saved seeds during a storm.
The barrel is now mostly filled with errant Detroggia beet seedlings, but I started pulling out those that didn't look like beets. Now I realize that most were all malabar spinach seedlings. As I started to transplant them, I noticed tons more seedlings. I can probably get 50 or more seedlings if I want to take the time to transplant them. I read that the seeds don't germinate well, and I sure don't believe that anymore.

Monday, March 29, 2010

There Goes the Neighborhood

I just got some new neighbors at the community garden! A local beekeeper convinced the board and the park district to allow the installation of a beehive in the garden. It is a stone's-throw away from my plots, and I am sure they will visit my overgrown radish and mustard plants once they get settled in. I'll leave the flowers in the ground a little while longer, sort of like a bee-version of a covered dish.

Monday, March 15, 2010

March Potluck

We don't have regular locavore potlucks every month anymore by design, but we still seem to get together at least once a month. I look forward to the gatherings, where the guests are almost as colorful as the food.
I was going to make a salad plate of cooked sliced beet, so I created a simple red salad. Here's the recipe:

Red Salad
1 red carrot,grated
1 large red beet, lightly steamed
1/8 t whole coriander seed
juice from one blood orange

Grate the carrots and beets, and mix in with the orange juice. Toast the whole coriander seeds until fragrant, cool and grind. Add the coriander to the grated mixture, stir and let marinate for a couple of hours. Serve with red radish and beet stem garnishes on a bed of fresh salad greens. (You get extra points for using red lettuces, such as Outredgous.)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Tea Gardens

During the past few days, the temperatures have risen, the sun has brightened, and I find that if I don't put a thick layer of sunblock on, I'll get a sunburn. Of course, it is my usual intent to go outside "just for a minute" to see if everything is OK. Recently, these dashes into the garden have resulted in more and more time spent in the sun. There is always "just one little thing" that can be done before I dash inside for sunglasses and a hat.
This weekend I have spent quite a bit of time in the backyard, transplanting seedlings, getting new containers filled with new soils, trimming dead winter leaves and dividing the mint plants and dealing with compost. I started a dozen varieties of basil, plus summer savory and hyssop. Almost every planting pot I emptied contained a sprouting coast live oak acorn. The squirrels sure have been busy.
I have started a "tea garden" in an old recycled plastic tote. Since the container is fairly shallow, it will only work for plants that don't need to grow too deeply, like all the mints. When the new plants are established, I will drag the container to a shady spot for the summer. My vision is to have a few of these containers perched along some old steps in a remote and shady part of the garden. I have four kinds of mint and some lemon balm.
I have another "tea garden" tucked under an old olive tree. I just added a new layer into a new worm bin, and harvested the "tea" underneath. I just hope I didn't kill my worms. The bin was full of water after last week's rain, and I didn't see much evidence of worms. I added several new worms just in case.

Friday, March 5, 2010


My first tomato seedlings are up, and they sure are cute. I am not usually that big on getting the very first tomato. I take my time and wait for our evenings to warm up and all the spring crops to be harvested.
Many years I overwinter volunteer tomato plants taken from the garden after fall plantings. But this winter, I got caught by surprise with an early frost and lost all the tomato plants.
This year I am trying the Red Siberian tomato, and not only is it supposed to be the earliest, it can handle cold temperatures during our spring. I got really great germination on some fairly old seeds, and am looking to trade some seedlings for other varieties when the hotter weather arrives.
So many community gardeners are getting into the heirloom tomato craze and have ordered a crazy amount of varieties, all suitable for trading.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 28 - End of February Dollar a Day Challenge

I did it! I finished the project out with a very tasty vegetarian potluck, and a mug of mint and ginger tea from partner Otto.
A whole month for under a dollar a day. My total food expenses were $18.96, which works out to almost 68 cents a day. When the costs of the garden are included, it works out to 85 cents a day. I could have gone lower if I had opted for less variety. I really enjoyed the cheese and the Italian sausage, but I did have enough home-grown beans and other protein foods to replace them.
I have purchased food left over: a couple of pounds of potatoes, a cup or more of raisins, a cup of rolled oats, over 2 pounds of salt, a few very small oranges, over two sticks of butter, and two eggs.
I have also put up a small container of celery leaves, 2 quarts of dehydrated leeks, and about 2 ounces of dried parsley.
Tomorrow I won't think about what I eat, or where my food comes from, or keep track of any of it.
I will still continue to keep track of the productivity and costs of the garden. I estimate that the value of the produce harvested for February to be $170. It was higher than I expected, mostly because I found more takers for all the collards.
What's next? I am going to eat down the freezer, so that there is new room for the spring and summer produce. There is a bundle of bean soups I threw in there right before the February challenge, some mixed foods like applesauce with cinnamon, a turkey I bought on sale right after Thanksgiving, and a ham I bought right after Christmas. I'll pull out my expensive local olive oil and start making collard chips in the dehydrator.

Day 28 - A day at the Market

What a difference a day makes! The weather was beautiful, so after the usual breakfast (made with broccoli instead of kale or chard) I headed off to the farmer's market. The walk was wonderful, and many other families had the same idea. The market sidelines were full of Dads with strollers and large dogs, and the accumulated purchases. A couple of booths featuring vegetables were mobbed with customers.
I sampled plenty of fruit: strawberries, tangerines, pears and apples, and a bit of cucumber. I felt pretty full after shopping only a couple of rows. I purchased some Pink Lady apples and some dried persimmons (for tomorrow!) and then stopped by a few other stores on the way home. My basket felt pretty heavy by the time I arrived home.
For lunch, I enjoyed some ginger and regular tea from partner Otto, the rest of the vegetable soup, another huge plate of greens cooked with the rest of the sausage, dehydrated apples, raisins and the final chunk of cheese.
This afternoon, I will assemble a beet salad for the potluck, with Detroggia beets, freckles romaine lettuce, corn salad, and blood oranges from partner Danielle.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day 27 - Winter is back!

I really wanted to sleep longer on one of the rainiest, coldest days of this year, but I had an event to attend early.
For breakfast, I had a potato with cheese and butter. I finished off the rest of the banana. I didn't have enough time for the greens.
For lunch, I had a huge plate of greens (mostly collards) cooked with some of the left-over sausage and a bowl of the vegetable soup with turkey. I ate some dehydrated apples from partner Colin, some raisins, and a mug of ginger tea from partner Otto.
For an afternoon snack, I had some crackers from partner Lisa, lettuce, a small orange, yogurt from partner Alex and a small bag of M&M's and a fun-sized Heath bar from partner Vince.
For dinner, we went out with friends. In the evening I enjoyed a cup of apple cinnamon tea from partner Igor.
I did not spend any money on food today, except for dinner out, of course. I have $3.48 left in the food bank.

Day 26 - SlugFest

This evening, there was a real slugfest in the kitchen sink, as what seemed like thousands of baby slugs crawled out of the lettuce heads and into all corners of the kitchen. So, this is why I am writing today's post on tomorrow.
I got to the garden plenty early this morning, just in case the rain got here a bit earlier than predicted. I picked several large Detroggia beets for a Sunday potluck.
Home by 9:30, I didn't really know what to do with all that time. Egged on by Detroggia beet success, I planted three more bins of beets out on the patio. They weren't Detroggia, I decided to plant more Bull's Blood. This variety just goes so slowly in the winter, so this is their time, I am hoping. I also tried some more Dino kale, although the seeds are pretty old. Everything is safely under glass window panes before the rain and the new cold.
For a late breakfast, I had the usual potato dish, with ginger and mint tea from partner Otto. After I popped it out of the microwave, a trading partner called, and we gabbed for awhile (cause I never hang up on a trading partner!!) and 20 minutes later the potatoes were still hot.
For lunch, I enjoyed a bowl of the vegetable soup, an orange, potatoes with sauerkraut, parsley and mustard seed, apple slices, peas, Detroggia beets and lettuce.
For an afternoon snack, I had some yogurt from partner Alex, and went off to do some shopping. I had some coffee and a piece of sandwich wrap at Trader Joe's and some coffee, mac and cheese, and some potato thing at Fresh and Easy. I splurged on a package of Italian sausage, for $2.46!
For dinner, I enjoyed the Italian sausage with more soup, apples from partner Colin, raisins, almonds from partner Igor, and cake from partner Arlene.
I am still full from dinner, and I am enjoying a cup of ginger and mint tea from partner Otto.
I have 2.65 left in the food bank, and only two more days to go!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day 25 - Getting ready for More Rain

Today I spent much time at the community garden, and I was able to completely surround one garden with hardware cloth.
I spent the morning coiffuring the fiber animals and washed a couple of hanks of yarn.
For breakfast I had the usual potato, greens cooked in butter, egg, cheese but NO toast, tea from partner Otto. The bread is mostly gone now, though there is a little bit in the freezer.
I snacked on peas in the garden.
For lunch, I had a green drink made with a limequat from partner Colin, celery and kale. I also had a tangerine from partner Earl, half a banana, some fresh peas, granola, dehydrated apple slices, raisins and cake from partner Arlene.
For dinner, I had a large bowl of soup made with turkey from partner Cindy, rice from partner Matthew, carrots from partners Earl and Gaston, a turnip from partner Colin, fresh winter squash, leeks, celery, fennel, kale, beet greens, parsley from the garden, dried garden zucchini, dried garden peas, Jack in the Beanstalk beans, dehydrated vegetables from partner Harvey, pepper from partner Ophelia and salt.
Like day 24, I spent no money on food. I have $5.09 left in the food bank.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 24 - More Rain

I waited for the rain, but it never really came down all that hard, and then I decided that it was enough so that I didn't have to travel to the community garden. I fiddled around in the backyard instead. I monitored the cats while they loaded up on local grasses so they could have even better barf once they came inside.
For breakfast, I ate the usual potato, egg, cheese, greens (cooked in butter), toast and tea from partner Sean. I think I also set a record for the number of cups of tea made out of the same teabag.
For a morning snack, I enjoyed a taste of sauerkraut, some roasted squash seeds and a cup of the pea soup.
For lunch, I ate the rest of the vegetable soup with turkey, some newly-made granola (with cardamom from partner Matthew) and a grilled cheese sandwich.
For an afternoon snack I stopped by Trader Joe's and had a bit of salad, some tomato-ey pasta and a small cup of coffee.
For dinner, partner Tammy fed me. Lots of shrimp, raw carrots, cold-cut sandwiches with herbed mayo and some wonderfully warm decaf coffee with hazelnut creamer.
In the evening, I snacked on dehydrated apple slices, raisins and the last of the squash seeds, at least until I boot up another squash.

Day 23 - More Potatoes! and Celery

I have settled into the same old breakfast potato dish with greens, only it's not just for breakfast anymore. I don't ever really tire of it, but I am probably using more butter than I need to.
For breakfast, I had rice from partner Matthew, with garden veggies, cheese and butter. I made a cup of tea from partner Sean, and saved the bag for later.
For a morning snack, I had a small potato with butter and some home-grown toasted squash seeds.
For lunch I had a cup of the pea soup, tea from partner Sean, lime juice from partner Colin, an orange, and a tangerine from partner Jose.
For dinner I had ANOTHER potato with cheese, greens and an egg, butternut squash with the last of the tikka masala sauce from partner Karl, raisins, toast from partner Arlene and dehydrated apples from partner Colin.
For an evening snack, I had more toast, an orange and almonds from partner Igor.
In the evening, I cooked up a storm, processing several batches of vegetable broth from celery and leek tops. I cooked a couple of big chunks of butternut squash and made a soup base out of pureed squash, leeks, celery and fennel bulb. I will freeze this for summer use. I don't usually freeze much celery, but when it is blended with the other ingredients it seems to keep better. I harvest very little fresh celery for eating after May. Seems weird right now that there will ever be a time when I am not eating it constantly.
The pots in the backyard are filled with celery seedlings, and after the recent rains there will be even more seedlings to come. I transplant a few of them for friends and trading partners, and many will get to go to seed, and start the crazy process all over again.
The leeks and parsley are in the dehydrator.

Day 22 - Eating up What's Left

For breakfast I had a potato with dressing from partner Lisa. Good stuff! I also had a protein shake from partner Igor, raisins, tea from partner Otto and toast.
For lunch I had a large garden-fresh salad with lettuce, sliced Detroit dark red beets, radishes, peas, a tangerine from partner Jose, an orange, and cake from partner Arlene.
For an afternoon snack, I had lychee jelly from partner Lisa, raisins, vegetable broth with salt, and roasted home-grown squash seeds.
For dinner, I ate another potato with egg, cheese and greens, broccoli, and a cookie from trader Rena.
In the evening, I ate more raisins and dehydrated apple slices from partner Colin.
I made pea soup today, with split peas from partner Matthew, ham from partner Shary, pepper from partner Ophelia, thyme from partner Tomas, and tons of home-grown celery, leek and fennel, with garlic, habanero pepper and salt.
I did not spend any money on food today, so I have $1.77 in the food bank.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day 21 - Eating Other People's Food

After today, I have only one week left. I am not bored with the food, or have too little of it, but I am worn out by trying to write it all down. Today's potlucks made things a bit easier. Not much cooking, just bringing fresh veggies from the garden, which were a huge hit at both events and kept me from having to lug home leftovers.
For breakfast, I had coffee from partner Irene, and a potato topped with an egg, cheese and greens cooked in butter, with salt and pepper.
For lunch, I went to a mini-potluck, and enjoyed fruit salad, hummus, lemonade, dried cranberries and vegetable chips.
After lunch, I stopped by Trader Joe's and had some coffee and a piece of muffin. (I shopped only for family food items this time.) I stopped by Fresh and Easy, but they didn't make it easy for me. They are always out of the sale meats when I am there, and won't give explanations or rainchecks. I did enjoy another cup of coffee there while I bought some other vegetables for my family.
For dinner, I went to another vegetarian potluck, featuring cheddar cheese, deviled eggs, bread, cabbage salad, eggplant casserole, chai tea, chocolate cake, apple streudel, cinnamon balls and water with lemon.
For an evening snack, I sampled some really great fried sweet potatoes in chipotle ranch dressing from partner Lisa.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day 20 - Shopping spree

With only a week or so to go on the challenge, I am coming to the end with money to spare. I will have a couple of potlucks and special events, which always add to variety.
For breakfast, I had some decaf coffee from partner Irene, lettuce, dried apples from partner Colin, and granola.
I enjoyed some coffee, yogurt and some fruit jam at Trader Joe's. I stopped by the stores as soon as they opened, and I bought a large chunk of cheese, a bag of raisins, a banana and a package of California butter. I also snacked on some snow peas at the garden.
For lunch, I ate a grilled cheese sandwich, wheat berries with raisins and honey, a taste of sauerkraut, cake from partner Arlene, a huge plate of steamed broccoli and snow peas, and a tangerine from partner Earl.
For dinner I enjoyed the vegetable soup with turkey from partner Cindy, some toast and butter, and some beets fresh from the garden.
For an evening snack, I had granola and raisins.
My extensive food purchases totalled $9.68, leaving me with 11 cents in the food bank.
I am really getting sick of lettuce!

Day 19

Still on the road, I enjoyed a hearty breakfast of eggs, turkey sausage, sweet potatoes, a banana, a tangerine and coffee, all from trader Jose. But, I really worked off all that food throughout the morning with a combination of walking and hard labor.
For lunch I had half a chicken sandwich, potato chips, artichoke salad, cucumber and carrot salad, a diet Coke and some coffee, all from trader Jose.
For an afternoon snack I ate a part of a fish sandwich, a tangerine and a banana and some decaf coffee all from partner Jose.
For dinner I had the squash soup, toast with butter, cake from partner Arlene, a taste of sauerkraut and toasted squash seeds.
I had dehydrated apple slices from trader Colin for an evening snack.
I purchased some oranges for 25 cents, leaving $8.96 in the food bank.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day 18

I am still on the road, and working hard!
For breakfast, I ate a banana and tangerine from partner Jose, and an orange from partner Danielle.
I was starving by the time the morning coffee break came around. I enjoyed a piece of cake and a mug of coffee from partner Irene.
For lunch I ate an Italian-style chicken pasta dish from partner Jose.
For dinner I had some turkey, salmon, sweet potatoes, salad, ice cream and coffee from partner Jose.
I saved up all my 83-cent allotment for today. There is $8.38 in the food bank.

Day 17 - Another Road Trip

I started off very early on the road again, so I didn't eat too much for breakfast, just a bit of toast from partner Arlene, butter, greens and a protein shake from partner Igor.
I stopped by partner Arlene's, and was served a nice morning snack of coffee with cream and sugar with a large bran muffin. Pumped up with all that sugar and caffeine, I headed down the road again.
For lunch, I was served a plate of fresh vegetables, falafel, coffee and Diet coke, all from partner Jose.
For dinner, partner Jose served fish, game hen, salad (with a heaping serving of carrot/raisin salad!), sunflower seeds, cooked carrots, coffee and a taste of warm apple cobbler topped with whipped cream.
Once I got out of the car, I worked hard, especially walking, so it was nice to have these meals.
I spent no money on food today, so there is $7.55 in the food bank.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Day 16 - Project Recap

I spent no money on food today, so I have $6.72 left in the food bank.
I have been able to keep my food expenses low by relying on my garden and my trading partners.
I did purchase a few items, but the surprising part about this challenge is how much of the purchased food I still have left, with less than halfway to go and lots of money to spend if I need it. Here's what I still have:
6 lb. potatoes
over 2 lb. salt (this is LOTS of salt!)
8 eggs
1/2 stick butter
1 lb. oats, minus a handful

Day 16 - No Carrots

I went looking for my container of carrots from trader Gaston and found that someone else had eaten all of them. Dang! I really wanted something different today.
I was too busy to shop today. I spent over three hours in the garden, tearing down some old fencing and putting up new metal mesh fencing. I worked until the staples ran out in the staple gun, about a third of the way through the project.
I picked a ton of greens to take with me on a trip, and spent much time washing, trimming and pulling off slugs. The fridge is bursting with vegetables.
For breakfast I had the last of the coffee from partner Irene, and a protein shake from partner Igor.
For lunch, I ate MORE french toast with honey, lettuce and potato salad.
For an afternoon snack I ate a tangerine from partner Earl. After working in the garden, I sat down with a large container of tea from partner Otto and lime from partner Colin.
For dinner I made stuffing with bread from partner Arlene, turkey from partner Cindy, leeks, celery, sage, salt, thyme from partner Philippe, and black pepper from partner Ophelia.
For an evening snack I had a cup of the squash soup, garden pumpkin seeds, lettuce, corn salad, and a taste of sauerkraut. I decided to put some dried shiso leaves into the crock, to see if they would lend more color to the batch. By the end of the day, much color had been added, and I fished the shiso leaves out and ate them. They tasted wonderful, but they could have been left in longer. (They were a bit too chewy.) I lined the crock with a new layer of shiso leaves and put the kraut to sleep for the evening. Shiso leaves have a cinnamon-like taste, and the only cinnamon flavor I have enjoyed since the start of this February challenge

Day 15 - Too busy to Cook

I have been on the run since the weather turned for the better and I realized that I had better get the garden prepared if I wanted any summer food at all. Can't live on dehydrated parsley and leeks forever.
For breakfast I had coffee from partner Irene, toast from partner Arlene, almond milk from partner Igor and garden greens with some butter.
In the morning, I snacked on snow peas and broccoli at the garden.
For lunch, I had a protein shake from partner Igor.
For a snack, I ate raisins, cookies, orange juice and cheese crackers, all from partner Nate.
For dinner, I finished the second batch of vegetable soup with turkey from partner Cindy, toast from partner Arlene, butter, broccoli, lettuce, beets and corn salad.
For an evening snack, I had a few almonds from partner Igor and some lime juice with limes from partner Colin.
I made a batch of squash soup with almonds from partner Igor, celery, leeks, vegetable broth, salt, coriander and black pepper from partner Ophelia. This will be for Monday.
Trading partner Ophelia has also been decluttering yard and garden supplies and the trades will really help to keep my garden expenses low for the coming year and beyond.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Day 14 - Halfway point

After today, I am halfway finished with this food challenge. After a sort of boring couple of days, I was able to round out my scrounged menu with some of the luxury foods, like butter. Eventually, the crazy abundance of my community kicked in and I don't think I will have to buy anything for the next week, unless I get bored with what I already have. I have been churning through the butter faster than I had planned. Perhaps I will go a bit more lightly when the bread runs out.
For breakfast I had the usual eggs and greens cooked in butter, with some toast from partner Arlene and coffee from partner Irene.
For lunch, I finished up the bean soup, ate a large plate of steamed broccoli and peas (some of the peas were from partner Colin), mini bagels with butter, lime (also from partner Colin) and grape juice.
For a snack I had more french toast and honey. I am not really all that into french toast as it seems, but I do have an abundance of eggs and bread and it is really easy to make. I spent several hours today working in all my gardens, getting ready for spring and don't have much time, or the inclination to spend it, in the kitchen.
For dinner, I ate a bowl of vegetable soup with turkey from partner Cindy, and the final bit of rice from partner Matthew. I also ate more apple slices from Colin, an almond cookie from partner Lisa, garden lettuce and another mug of coffee from partner Irene. The coffee is starting to taste a bit old, but as long as the caffeine still is there, I'll keep drinking it. I would put some into the freezer if it wasn't full of squash.
Over the weekend I harvested many leeks and now have two trays of them in the dehydrator, along with another batch of parsley. So far I have "made" about an ounce of chopped and dried parsley flakes, and of course, the head of cabbage slowly being turned into sauerkraut.
I did not buy any food today, and so have $5.06 left over.
In the first two weeks, I spent a total of $6.56 for food. Combined with the cost of the garden, it works out to an average of 63 cents a day.

Day 13 - Spring is Here!

I ate a substantial breakfast before a date with another trading partner involving lots of walking. I had eggs, greens, toast from partner Arlene, butter, and coffee from partner Irene.
I had a late-morning snack of french toast with honey from partner Alex and a tangerine from partner Earl.
For lunch I finished up the chayote squash dish, and had some mini bagels and apple slices.
For an afternoon snack I had 1/2 banana, and another cup of coffee from partner Irene, with a dab of honey and some Detroggia beets.
I have to take back all the bad things I said about the Detroggia beets! Despite their shape and lack of a white ring, when I cooked them in the pressure cooker, all the water was yellow. When I sliced the beets, I discovered that the insides were strawberry red and gold striped, with all the wonderful flavor of a chioggia. I can't wait to show these off at the next locavore potluck, I'll be the best little food snob.
We went out to eat with friends for dinner. I also had a calcium pill from partner Igor.
I did not spend any money for food today, and so have $4.23 left over. This is almost enough to buy a package of raisins at Whole Foods.

Day 12 - Back to my old favorites

I made another baking dish full of chayote squash (from partner Julia) and tikka masala from partner Karl. I also had a mug of coffee from partner Irene and a taste of my new batch of sauerkraut. While I was away, the kraut started to turn nice and pink from a baby head of purple cabbage from partner Richard. It looked pretty sad before, but now that the acidity is higher, the color is much better. The juice looks like a nice blush wine.
For a snack I had some mini-bagels with margarine and a mug of coffee with half-n-half, all from partner Arlene. I also got some bread from Arlene.
For lunch I had french toast made with the bread from partner Arlene, an egg and some butter. I also had a huge plate of steamed broccoli and peas from the garden, some cookies from partner Arlene and some lime juice.
For an afternoon snack I had toast and butter, and more of the squash with tikka masala.
For dinner, I had a bowl of the vegetable soup made earlier in the week, rice from partner Matthew, 1/2 of the banana and some turkey from partner Cindy and a handful of dehydrated apples from partner Colin.
I didn't spend any money for food, so I have $3.40 in the "food bank".

Friday, February 12, 2010

Day 11

I was busy today with many projects, and I was able to grab food here and there along the way. Really good food.
For breakfast, I enjoyed the last of the sandwiches from partner Lee. I had a mid-morning snack of apple pie, cheese and coffee from partner Irene.
During lunch, I ate ground turkey, chicken, mixed salad, cheese, corn chips, guacamole, salsa, sour cream and a diet Coke from partner Jose.
In the afternoon, I had a taste of coffee from partner Maria.
For dinner I had lasagna, summer squash and a diet Coke from partner Jose. Partner Irene gave me a huge pot of coffee for my trip home and beyond.
It would have been pointless to purchase any more food today. I have $2.57 left.

Day 10 - Still on the Road

I am still getting caught up in all areas of my life after returning from the road trip.
In the early part of Day 10, I was busy with everything else, and mostly ate leftovers from my cooler.
For breakfast, I ate the rest of the wheat berry salad with my lettuce. I had some coffee and red berries from partner Irene, and a piece of salmon from partner Jose.
For lunch, I had small cup of bean soup made with with ham from Shary, carrot from partner Colin, and dry beans, celery, leek, garlic, habanero pepper and parsley from my own gardens, and some salt. I also had fresh lettuce, parsley and snow peas, and some hummus from partner Katia.
I had an afternoon snack with partner Katia, who gave me a wonderful navel orange. I also munched on a few crackers from partner Irene and a handful of my home-made granola.
At dinner, I enjoyed some wonderfully crunchy carrot raisin salad and sandwiches from partner Lee. The sandwiches were made with roast beef, turkey, bacon and tomatoes. I also enjoyed lasagna, steamed broccoli, herbed cheese rolls and ice cream with caramel sauce, all from partner Maria. Maria also sent me off with a large mug of decaf coffee.
I didn't buy any food, so I have $1.74 left after day 10.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Day 9 - Road Trip

I started out with a big breakfast: the second half of the banana, lemon balm tea, eggs fried in a little butter, beet greens, and pepper from partner Matthew.
Today was the start of a road trip, with much trading going on the whole way. I needed to take some food, and selections that travel well in the cooler.
My first big stop was the Ventura government center. All the participants in the Eat Local for One Year project got a certificate. Before the meeting, I stopped by the snack room. Scattered about the colored drinks and chips, they did have some healthy fare, like fresh fruit, and fresh vegetable salads. I didn't see anything that looked like it was grown locally. Sure would have been nice to see some farm-fresh strawberries along with the waxed and shellac-ed apples and oranges.
For lunch, I had some leftover veggie soup with turkey from partner Cindy, garden lettuce and beets, berries and coffee from partner Irene.
For an afternoon snack I had coffee, crackers and berries from partner Irene.
For dinner I had wheat berry salad with all the other leftovers: veggie soup with turkey, crackers, and more berries. And more coffee, but the last mug was decaf.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Day 8 - Banana Day

I enjoyed one half of the banana for breakfast. Unfortunately, as it ripened, I noticed a huge bruise on the bottom of the fruit. Not a big deal usually, but I had to cut off about 3 cents worth, and that hurt. I enjoyed the banana with corn flakes from partner Arlene and the leftover almond milk. I finished the squash soup, tea and some rice.
My morning snack was at Whole Foods. I stopped by to check on a book, and discovered that their book offerings had dwindled considerably from the last time I was there, about 10 years ago. They did not have the book I was looking for, but I did find all sorts of nice foods. I had a piece of oat bran bread, a small cup of coffee and a taste of black barley salad. The barley was substantial and chewy, but I have to admit that I like my own wheat berry salad a little better. I picked out a pound of old-fashioned rolled oats, setting me back 63 cents. I tried to find some conventional bulk raisins, but they only had expensive packages.
On the way back from the garden, I stopped by Trader Joe's. Again, they had some really great coffee and a taste of chicken salad. I bought a tub of black cherry yogurt and another banana. The saleslady commented on what a nice lunch I had,
"Great! Lunch for under a dollar!"
Well, yes, that's my plan, except it has to last for the whole day.
I just hope I picked a good banana. When I went back to the display, a young man was pouring older bananas into a cart. I asked if they were going to throw them away and he said that they take them to a county food pantry. I was glad that at least some of them were going to be used. I know that my own local food pantry throws away the ripe bananas.
I had a late lunch of salad greens, wheat berry salad and half a beet.
At dinner, I ate steamed kale, potatoes and tikka masala. The masala tastes much better with potatoes than with the other vegetables I used earlier. I also had some buttered rice and some almond cookies, the container of yogurt and some pomegranate seeds.
This afternoon, I made some granola with the rolled oats I purchased. (The cardamom is from partner Matthew.) I don't like my granola too sweet. Here's the recipe:
1/2 pat butter
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
6-8 almonds, chopped
3/4 cup rolled oats
Put the butter and honey into a non-stick fry pan and heat over low heat. Stir, add the other ingredients and continue to cook until the almonds and oats are toasted. Be careful not to burn the granola. Store in an airtight container.
I spent $1.61 today and have 8 cents left over.

Day 7 - Superbowl

I did not spend any time cooking today, since I did so much prep work yesterday.
Breakfast was an egg fried in a little butter with cooked beet greens, lime and orange juice from partner Danielle, and some tea from partner Otto.
I took a huge plastic container of salad greens to the Quaker potluck, to be mixed with salad toppings brought by another diner. She usually brings a huge wooden bowl for the salad, but this time she brought two so the salad would be easier to serve. The salad included fresh avocado, garbanzo beans, red pepper, tomato, cheese and vinagrette dressing on the side. I brought the large pot of vegan vegetable soup. We also enjoyed moussaka, lime bars, corn chips, veggie chips, hummus, rice salad and lemonade.
Dinner was light, just some leftover vegetable soup with additional turkey from partner Cindy, steamed peas, broccoli and rice with a dab of butter, and pomegranate seeds from partner Alex.
I had an evening snack of roasted garden squash seeds, dried apple slices from partner Colin, and an almond cookie from partner Lisa.
And the Super Bowl TV commercial winner is: Audi!!!! I just loved and was scared by the green police, especially the helicopter bust of the guy throwing away those orange peels.
I did not purchase any food on Day 7, so I will have $1.69 available for day 8.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Day 6 - Harvard Beets

I "bought" California butter with my extra money today, and now I have 3 cents left. Actually, I bought it the last time I was in the valley, but didn't use it until today. I didn't really need to buy this early, since we drove right past the store on our way into town.
I got to the community garden early today, despite all the rain. I harvested a ton of vegetables and spent over 2 hours in the kitchen, cleaning, prepping, and then making a vegan soup for tomorrow's Quaker potluck. Well, I hope it's vegan. The rain brought out the critters and I found many baby slugs taking refuge in the inner celery leaves.
For breakfast, I munched on snow peas and lettuce.
For a late lunch, I enjoyed a plate of steamed snow peas, broccoli and asparagus from partner Don, topped with a bit of butter. I had a cup of the squash soup, and finished off with a mug of Peet's tea from partner Emily.
The soup for tomorrow's potluck is made from butternut squash, frozen cocozelle summer squash, potatoes, leeks, celery, carrots from partner Gaston, turnips from partner Colin, kale, chard, fennel, dehydrated habanero pepper, marjoram from partner Franklin, rosemary from partner Gert and mixed dehydrated vegetables from partner Harvey.
Over the past couple of years, I have attempted to get seeds from beet plants, with varying success. In 2009, I finally had two types of beets blooming in the backyard at the same time: Chioggia and Detroit dark red. I hand-pollinated and came up with Detroggia, I guess, Chioggia being the mom. The germination was pretty good, but unfortunately, they aren't as nice as either star parent. Despite the parentage, these beets aren't getting into Harvard. They have the conical shape of the Chioggia instead of the nice round shape of the Detroit dark red. They have the more pale red color of the Chioggia without the interesting stripes. I haven't tasted them yet, but harvested several for myself and my trading partners to trial. The greens are of high quality, matching the red of rhubarb chard.
We went out to buffet dinner with friends. I ate everything except the lettuces and celery. It was a treat to have some raisins. I had a bit of difficulty with the vegetables. They just don't taste as nutritious as my home-grown vegetables.

Day 5 - I'm in a Rut, but the Garden Chuggs Away

Today, finally, I could buy myself a bit more variety. I have been getting myself in a rut, with all the grain salads, but there is not much dressing left, and it is mostly just ice-cold and thick olive oil left the jar. All the other ingredients, especially the pungent garlic, have been poured out.
For breakfast, I ate homegrown pumpkin seeds, cooked winter squash with honey, and a glass of lime and grape juice, mixed with water.
I trudged out in the rain to Fresh and Easy, and had the whole place to myself as I enjoyed a cup of coffee, a piece of raspberry danish that didn't taste very fruit-like and bought a carton of eggs for $1.77. That leaves me with 20 cents left over for tomorrow. I'll have a total of $1.03.
For lunch, I enjoyed a large salad, made with romaine and buttercrunch lettuces, mache, purple mustard leaves, radishes, boiled egg, pomegranate seeds, one half of a large beet and the now-famous wheatberry salad, spruced up with extra ground celery and mustard seeds, dehydrated green and red peppers and parsley. I had a cup of the pea soup and a small handful of pumpkin seeds.
For dinner I ate the rest of the wheatberry salad, a bit of potato salad prepared in a similar way, butternut squash soup with a recipe similar to the pumpkin soup I served at the locavore potluck last year. I used almonds from partner Igor instead of the local walnuts. I had a tootsie pop for dessert and dried apples for an evening snack.
I added up the value of my garden produce for January 2010, and the estimate is at $155. February will probably be my lowest month, and not because of the shorter number of days, but because many fall plantings are finishing and the winter-spring plants are slow to produce. It looks like it is pretty much beets, lettuces, celery, greens, peas and onions until the fava beans come on board. I might have a couple of carrots in, we'll see.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Day 4 - BLT

During the lunch hour, I ran a few errands and then planned to stop by the farmer's market, but it was so cold and dreary I decided to stop by Trader Joe's instead. I headed straight for the free food kiosk, where they were handing out this really decadent bacon dip on melba toast. I also had a small cup of coffee, but only because I tilted the coffee urn for myself and about 10 others so we could all enjoy the last drop.
I did my shopping and came back around, and a new store clerk was handing the bacon and toast snacks, so I had another one. Then she called out,
"Anyone want some bacon?"
As I was going to mention that the bacon was really good, I then realized that she was done with this dish. She actually wanted to hand out the leftover bacon, huge salty strips of BACON! Way too much salt, but really good.
I bought a banana for 19 cents and raced home so I could have the lettuce part of the BLT (that's bacon, lettuce and toast). I made a large salad with garden greens, a small beet, the rest of the wheat berry salad, sprinkled with a handful of pomegranate seeds. It looked like something that would be on the cover of Martha Stewart magazine only she would have put some pancetta on top, but that would have been a bit over the top, eating that with all the extra bacon already in my stomach.
I sat down next to my cats, who left me alone with my salad since it wasn't covered with pancetta, and thought that it sure is a nice time of the year when I can enjoy such high quality lettuce.
The bad news about the banana is that it is very green and I won't be able to enjoy it for a couple of days. I had a tangerine from partner Earl instead.
Tomorrow I will have a balance of $1.97

Day 4 - Soap Flakes

Last night we almost had a disaster, when a certain overzealous dishwasher dumped a mug of soaking almonds into the hot soapy water. After fishing most of them out, counting them, and washing them several times, I decided that they were very clean yet still good enough to eat. I made some almond milk with a dash of Italian sea salt, and it frothed up pretty well in the blender and I hope not from the soap. It tasted pretty good over the corn flakes from partner Arlene, with some pomegranate seeds from partner Alex and tea from partner Otto.
I don't know how people eat these flakes in the morning. I was hungry about ten minutes later. So for a mid-morning snack, I enjoyed the last of the rice medley with a bit of the dressing from Alex, mache and red onion from the garden and some fresh vegetable broth with a touch of sea salt and some dried parsley.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Day 3 - Afternoon

I planted potatoes in the garden today, and it was a huge job because I had to move and mix very much new soil and then shovel it back into the planting barrels. I ate a huge salad for a late lunch, with a mix of garden lettuces, arugula from trading partner Walter, radishes, snow peas, almonds and the wheat berry salad. I also finished the last of the bean soup made yesterday.
For an afternoon snack, I finished the vegetable stew, with some rice medley and fresh garden coriander.
For dinner, I ate a large serving of stuffing made with vegetable broth, celery, leek, parsley, bread crumbs from trading partner Arlene, sage from partner Bret, thyme from partner Tomas and salt. It was served with turkey breast from trading partner Cindy, garden beet greens and turnip greens from Colin. I had another Tootsie pop for dessert.
I am snacking on dried apples as I type this.

Day 3 - Naming the Partners

Well, I sure have blown through all the 2010 hurricane names quickly. Before I started this project, I didn't really know how many partners I had. Now I need an additional list. I read that they don't go to the next year's list if they need more hurricanes, they just use the Greek alphabet. But that is more boring, so I am going to go ahead and use the 2011 hurricane list. One more example of me not following all the rules to the letter.
It was either that or start using Messier objects.

Day 3 - Kraut

This summer, my mother decluttered her home, including many family farm relics she could no longer use, not that she ever used them in the way they were intended anyway. My grandmother owned several tin kitchen storage containers marked "FLOUR" etc. but Mom stored plastic bags inside instead. There was another contraption she stored right alongside a giant iron coffee grinder that she used for a doorstop. We weren't sure what it was. I had thought all along it was an apple corer, but upon closer inspection, there was no central core. It looked like a 10-pound mini pizza cutter.
We called a local college with a thriving history museum, and an expert in local antiques came over to pick up the donations. We asked him about the apple corer and, surprisingly, it is a cabbage chopper. I had never heard of one of these, and haven't ever seen one on Ebay, either.
We forgot to give the old crock to the historian. It had been in one or another garage for about 70 years, and was cracked and repaired several times. We ended up throwing it outside by the mailbox with a "FREE" sign, hoping someone would rescue it.
With $1.50 today, I decided to "buy" some salt. Actually, I purchased a huge container of sea salt last week because I needed lots to make sauerkraut. I haven't eaten any of the salt until now. This morning I started a fresh batch of sauerkraut so I can enjoy some during this February challenge and also the Locavore Lite 2010 challenge.
It would have been really fun to make sauerkraut just like grandma probably did, with her cabbage chopper and her large pickling crock. I hope my kraut will be just as good as hers probably was.

Day 3 - Settling in

Today I continued to settle into my early-springtime routine. I am busy preparing the garden, cramming in as much as I can between the rains, and cooking with tons of leeks and celery.
Like yesterday, I woke up early and felt like cooking, so I started making almond milk and broth from all the vegetable scraps. I also put two more trays of parsley into the dehydrator.
I made a wheat berry salad using a similar recipe as yesterday's potato salad. I added the bits of leftover pimento gracing the bottom of the olive jar.
I was pretty hungry this morning, so I had a packet of the nutrition drink from partner Igor, some cooked garden-grown amaranth seed with honey, a bit of the leftover vegetable stew with rice medley, some Earl Grey tea from trading partner Virginie and a few pond scum tablets from partner Igor. I had to fight off the cats to get the pond scum for myself. This isn't from a local pond, it's from Japan.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Day 2 - Dinner

I did quite a bit of work in the garden today and came in very hungry. For an afternoon snack, I made a potato salad out of my newly-purchased Idaho potatoes, mixed with dressing, olive brine, garden parsley, onion, daikon radish, celery, fresh jalapeno pepper, celery seed and mustard seed. I also had a small amount of yesterday's vegetable stew, topped with garden coriander.
I ate a late dinner, a bean soup made with the finest horticultural beans from partner Richard, carrots from Colin, ham from partner Shary, fresh thyme from partner Tomas, with garlic, celery, leeks and hot pepper from my own gardens. I finished the rice salad, and added lots of shredded garden lettuce. More dried apple slices for dessert, with a warm mug of lemon balm tea.
I don't usually have this much salad, but I am enjoying the salad dressing, knowing that it is expensive to buy and that it will go to waste if I don't use it up quickly.

Day 2 - I can Buy Something!

I marched off to the supermarket with a fistful of cash, a whole $1.66 to drool around with. I had my eye on a potato sale at Ralph's. I almost didn't know where to look, since I hadn't been in the store for over a year and they did a complete renovation. It looked pretty nice and I am sure they will save on energy used to light up the place.
I bought a 10 pound bag of Idaho potatoes for 99 cents. While I was at the store, I checked a couple of other prices, and ended up in the packaged potato aisle. Turns out for the amount of money I spent on my spuds, I could have purchased half a package of Betty Crocker dehydrated potato dish. Who can afford to buy this stuff? I also ran into a trading partner, which is always nice.
Here's what I had for lunch:
Lettuce with garden radishes, snow peas and parsley, topped with rice salad made with the olive oil dressing, beet and parsley, and of course, my favorite olive brine. I had a few homegrown sunflower seeds, washed down with grape and lime juice from Danielle and Matthew. For dessert, I had a tootsie pop from partner Paula.

Day 2 - Berries for breakfast

I did a fair amount of cooking early this morning, waiting to see if we would have additional weeks of winter. (The sun finally did come out.) I cooked (and tasted) some basmati rice medley from partner Matthew in some vegetable broth I made from yesterday's scraps. Then I pressure-cooked some wheat berries from partner Nichole that I had soaked the night before. I haven't cooked wheat berries in awhile, and these were much better than the bland and watery concoction I had tried right after I went macrobiotic. Maybe I am just more used to bland food, or just really hungry after yesterday's light eating.
I thought the berries needed a hint more sweetness, so I put a dab of honey from partner Alex on top. I also enjoyed a mix of tangerine, lime and aloe juice. The aloe comes from my own garden. I finished breakfast off with a dish of greens, seasoned with a dash of olive brine, with a mug of tea from partner Otto.

Locavore Lite 2010

Please stop by the locavore lite 2010 site to learn more about it.
When I told my friends about the Localvore Lite 2010 challenge, they said they didn't have the time or energy to do it, but I mentioned that many of us are already doing it! At least everybody who knows me personally and will accept zucchini doesn't have to worry, even if they don't have time to shop at the farmer's market.
Join us!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Day 1 - Afternoon and Beyond

Flush with harvesting success, I set about to dehydrate half a tray of parsley. This parsley preservation is going to get old quickly, I can already tell. Here's what I had for an afternoon snack:

Vegetable stew.
Chayote squash from partner Julia
Turnip and carrots from partner Colin
Tikka masala simmer sauce from partner Karl
Celery, leek, parsley, golden chard stalks and fennel bulb from the garden.
I had expected that the jar of masala would be terribly salty, but it was not. The sauce was a bit too bland for the amount that I used. I have to make this jar last, at least until I have enough money saved up for some seasoning, so I used only a couple spoonfuls.

Here's what I ate for dinner:
Handful of almonds from Igor (home grown!)
Leftover vegetable stew, this time with fresh cilantro from the garden. The cilantro really made all the difference!
Garden Rhubarb chard, Siberian kale and garlic sauteed in oil left over in a pan from dinner last night, and a dash of olive brine.
Sliced beets from the garden
The other half of the meal replacement shake
I made a large cup of tea, from herbs I grow in my garden.

I had planned to cook beans for dinner, but their tough skins made soaking difficult, and after a full day on the kitchen counter they were still shriveled and tiny. I pulled out the almonds instead. I don't really want to use all the almonds up in these first few days, since they are so expensive to purchase.
We sat down in the evening to watch House while I snacked on a Lychee jelly cup from partner Lisa, a couple of almonds and a few slices of apple. I thought it was Lupus for sure.
I didn't buy any food today, so I have an 83 cent surplus.

Day 1 - Lunch

I stopped by the garden and many of my friends/trading partners were there. Since it is getting warmer, the gardens are overrun with winter greens. It is time to rip some older plants out and get ready for spring planting.
After spending waaay too much time gabbing and piddling around with compost, I harvested a large container of veggies for the rest of today and early tomorrow. So here's lunch:
Juice made from a blood orange from partner Danielle and a tangerine from partner Earl
Arugala from partner Fiona
Lettuce from the garden and partner Gaston.
Radishes, mache and snow peas from the garden
Broccoli from partner Hermine
Salad dressing from Alex
1/2 packet meal replacement shake from partner Igor
The lettuce was nice and crispy, and a blend of several varieties. I grew the Freckles and Red Romaine and Gaston grew the Bronze Mignonette and Four Seasons from some seed that I had grown out myself two years ago.

Day 1 - Mid-morning snack

I stopped by Trader Joe's on my way to errandland. I haven't given TJ's a hurricane name since it is already a trader and it already has a nautical theme. I am not sure if they should be counted as a real trading partner, since I do exchange money with them from time to time. But I did not do so today. The samples were free.
I stopped by the sample table, where they had laid out some very large pieces of toasted raisin bread with butter. I also had a small coffee with cream and sugar. Later, when I walked by, they had put out curried chicken salad. The lone piece of highly-yellow chicken rested on a tiny bed of leaves. The chicken was very cold, and also terribly hot. I hadn't expected all the pepper, and had a coughing fit, so I dashed into the pet aisle so I wouldn't cough all over everybody else's food.
I stopped by TJ's to check on the availability of grass-fed beef. This time, they had it in stock, but it was 6 dollars for a package, and it would take me over a week to save up enough money to buy it. I also checked the raisins. 3.6 days. I have some old home-canned grape juice in the pantry. It's not very sweet, but it will have to do for awhile.

Day 1 - Breakfast

I realize that if I want a fair account of the first day, I had better start now. It does take some time to write down all I eat. So here's breakfast:
Radishes and buttercrunch lettuce from the garden.
Olive oil and local lime dressing from trading partner Alex.
Dried apple slices from trading partner Bonnie.
Dried apple slices from partner Colin. (Colin's apples are much sweeter so I mix the two.) Both varieties were drenched in lemon juice from Danielle before dehydration.
Yes, the radishes really were the French Breakfast variety. Despite the name, I had never eaten them for breakfast before. I picked them yesterday but forgot to bring them inside. I usually don't eat this type of breakfast, especially in the winter, but the radishes called out to me, for some reason.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Trade Winds

I have a great group of trading partners. We trade all sorts of things like labor, food, advice, future compost, seeds, plants, books, clothing, and sometimes even the flu.
My trading partners aren’t wasteful (except the dumpsters). For the most part, they are a pretty frugal group. I think that most people don’t want to waste anything, it is just that they don’t always know what to do with the extra things in their lives. That’s why they give them to me. It is a way of rearranging all of the abundance.
Other trading partners are truly grateful for what I give to them, and so they repay me in kind.
Most of my trading partners do not know about the February Dollar a Day Challenge. If they stumble upon this and recognize a gift, they can identify themselves if they want to, but here I will only identify them by the pseudonyms I have assigned them. I will be using the designated names for the 2010 hurricane season.

Friday, January 29, 2010

February Dollar a Day Challenge Rules

So! here are my rules.

1. Spend no more than a dollar a day for the month of February. I have figured that my gardens cost 17 cents per day, so that leaves me 83 cents per day to play around with at the grocery store or farmer’s market.
2. I am not going to eat anything else from my pantry except items I have grown myself or received from trading partners. Since I harvest from the garden all year ‘round, this rule will not be as difficult for me as it has been for others doing like challenges. In addition, I already have a small stock of foods from trading partners. Most of this stash consists of non-local food items traded during the Eat Local For One Year challenge in 2009.
3. I will replace what homegrown foods I eat out of my pantry with seasonal foods. So, if I eat a serving of frozen zucchini, I will add a rack of parsley or leeks to my dehydrator.
4. If my friends and/or trading partners want to go out to eat, I will go along, and the tab won’t be counted in my daily food total. I’m done with not going out with my friends because of a silly food challenge.
5. I will keep track of my experience on the blog, but I won’t post receipts! Not only has that been done before, but I don’t have a camera.
6. NO RAMEN NOODLES! Unless a trading partner gives them to me.

Why February? In deference to Lessisenough, who started her food challenge last February, and also because it is the slowest time of the year at the garden. Doing this in September would be too easy. I am still on the Locavore Lite 2010 challenge, of course.

Care to join me?

My next post will be all about my trading partners.

You Like Me, You Really Like Me...

...And now here’s the end of my academy award speech, where I thank everybody that ever helped me, like Mrs. Meier, my first grade teacher, Mr. Hebel, my high school social studies teacher, and, oh, Jerry Maguire.
While I have been inspired by other people’s accounts of their experiments in simple living, sometimes some of them make me feel a bit uncomfortable. Sometimes there is a bit of, “if I can do this, anyone can do it.” Even worse is when it feels like, “if I can’t do it then nobody can do it.” And the very worst is, “If I can do it, you SHOULD do it!” I wish for this experiment to not be all that political. I am not doing this experiment to change any policy or prove any particular point. It’s not about nutrition, food policy, self-deprivation, or the world’s current economic challenges. It’s not about Weston Price, Dorothy Day or Barbara Ehrenreich. It’s more about adaptability, creativity and friendship (OK, and a bit of competition).
I struggled a bit with my rules, and how I would start this experiment. Should I start from scratch, with nothing in the house to eat? Or, should I eat what’s here, with the risk of my expenses being so low because I am just spending down the pantry?
No matter what I would try, there would be no way for me to start from scratch. My garden has been going along for awhile, the soil is in shape, the plants are in, and I know how to grow them. I learned much about gardening from Mom and Dad and how far back does that assistance go? My grandfather’s rose garden, my other grandfather’s farm, my great aunt’s cabbage grater? Many in my community, from undocumented Mexican gardeners who help me load grass clippings into my car every Tuesday morning, to my friends with horse and chicken manure, to the seemingly careless drivers who leave planting containers and shovels in the roadways, have contributed to my compost pile. There is no way to go back to scratch. I am not even going to try that much.
I’ll admit, not everybody can do this. Some can do better for sure. Nobody else has my DNA, my climate, my upbringing, my schooling, my relatively affluent neighborhood. Nobody has the same initial or current conditions, so everyone’s experiment, if they choose to do one, will have a different outcome.
I hope I have a good outcome. So, thank you all. I've misplaced that crumpled envelope I stashed in my pocket and they're starting to play music. You know who you are!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Raw January Morning

I know it has been a bit too cold for me to seriously consider a raw food diet, but Randy's raw beet salad sounded really good. I hadn't been out to the garden since the rains began, and was running low on fresh local veggies, but I knew I still had some beets. I made a few modifications to the recipe. I added local tangerine juice instead of orange juice. Since my beets were a bit overgrown and a little tough, and they had at some point in their rooty lives experienced a bit of pretesting by various rodents, I decided to peel them first.
I placed the marinated beets on a bed of salad greens I gathered on Sunday afternoon during the first rain shower.
The salad was tasty, but I was unprepared for the amount of time it would take to chew the beets. They had almost a beef jerky quality, and despite being cold, the salad was pretty satisfying.

Monday, January 18, 2010

February Dollar a Day Challenge

During the middle of the Eat Local For One Year challenge, Kris addressed the costs of adhering to a local food diet. Most participants found that our costs were down from when we were eating any old kind of food, mostly because we weren't eating the high-cost packaged or take-out selections, and pretty much everything had to be prepared from scratch. Others spent less money on food because they started putting up their garden produce in 2008. We were able to keep our food bill down to under 2 dollars a day per person during 2009, but I wondered if I could go lower.
I have been inspired by others who have participated in budget food challenges, like The One Dollar Diet Project and the Less is Enough challenge. So, for the month of February, I am going to try to eat for under a dollar a day. I think this will be easier than the other challenges for two reason. First, I plan to take advantage of my own produce gardens. Second, I have a group of trading partners. My trading partners may be locavores, far-o-vores, dumpsters, organizations and other trading entities. (OK, maybe the dumpsters aren't really trading partners since I rarely throw anything away.) I will not reveal the identity of any of my trading partners on any new posts. I will say that most of my trading partners have been gracious recipients of my endless stream of zucchini and buttercrunch lettuce, and they pass along to me what they have. Some give me gleanings, some their leftovers, some gifts for favors, but none of the trades are for money. We all help each other.
Please stay tuned for more details.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Oops! I Did it Even More Again (The Sequel)

Didn't I learn anything about squash this year? I grow plenty on my own, and now I am getting plenty of chayote to eat and pass around. Recently I planted a sprouting chayote on a little plot in the backyard. There is plenty of room for the squash vine to grow up some evergreen bushes, reach the olive tree, climb over to a grove of baby live oak trees and continue on down the street into my neighbor's yard, all the while clogging sewer lines, disrupting cable, irritating the Homeowner's Association Police.
I know better. I just couldn't help myself.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Are Freegans Local?

Starting in February, I will be trying a new food experiment. I’ll admit, I think I’ll make a better Freegan than a Locavore.
One of the seemingly unavoidable consequences of starting the ELFOY project one year ago was food waste. One reason that I joined the project at all was because of my concern over environmental issues associated with wasteful food industry practices. It just didn’t seem right to toss perfectly good food after January 1 just because it came from far away.
A few weeks into the project, the core group had a meeting to discuss changes to the challenge. One of the changes we agreed to was that it would be OK to eat non-local food if it was going to be thrown away. This was supposed to be an occasional event, but exactly how often was never clarified. Is it a couple of times a month, or a couple of times a day?
If you were walking by a dumpster and heard a baby crying, would you dive in and rescue it? Of course you would! You would rescue the baby and call 911 and get that baby adopted into a loving family that will honor its right to its intended life purpose. Wouldn’t you? What if it wasn’t a real crying baby, but just a bag of European baby greens, or little baby patty pan squash or new potatoes? What if some farmer lovingly planted heirloom seeds, carefully watered, tended, harvested, packaged, padded and shipped it, only to have a grocery store overbuy and throw it away, the rest of its life and purpose interrupted, and all the accompanying energy consumption down the drain?
And what if the food was grown in Peru or Chile or Ecuador, flown here, and then thrown in a dumpster? Wow, for a locavore, that is even worse! OK, what if it was just harvested by a cog in the agribusiness machine? Wouldn’t you still want to rescue it? Well, I would, at least.
To my way of thinking, when the food is from the dumpster, the food-miles get set back to zero. If, by rescuing them, they stay out of the landfill, then the food-miles are even in negative territory, sort of like carbon offsets, without all that pimped out buying and selling at some European exchange.

Chayote Challenge

I received a ton of local overgrown chayote and this month, I am determined to try them in as many recipes as I can. My first experiment was to cook the chayote whole, scoop out the cooked flesh and then "grill" it in butter, garlic and Indian spices. Unfortunately, I didn't get to try much of it because when I checked the fridge, it was all gone. Next I tried a mock mango chutney. It looked a little sad until I added some turmeric for color. It was a hit at a dinner party I attended, and my hosts asked to keep the leftovers. And I have to say, I can't think of a more perfect complement to corn chips. Here's the recipe:
Chayote chutney
1 large chayote squash
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup raisins
1 garlic clove
2-3 fresh hot red chili peppers, chopped and seeded
1/4 t powdered mustard
1/4 t powdered ginger
1 clove, crushed
1/8 t garam masala
dash turmeric for color
Cook the chayote whole by poking it with a fork and microwaving it (about 6 min) until slightly soft. Let the chayote cool slightly and then remove and discard the seed and skin, and chop the squash into large chunks. Mix the squash, onion, pepper, garlic, vinegar and sugar and raisins in a saucepan and cook the mixture until the squash is soft and the other ingredients are cooked through. Mix in the other spices and cook for 1 minute or until the mixture is slightly thickened. Cool and place into a clear glass jelly jar. The chutney will thicken as it cools.
For my next trial, I used an extremely overgrown squash and just sauteed the cooked squash in garlic, olive oil, fennel, salt and fresh parsley, as I would potato. I'll have to say that I prefer the chayote at a less-mature stage, and sure prefer the chutney. But, who needs all that sugar? I am going to tinker with a version with honey, and less sweetness overall and with more red pepper so the color is better.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Transition Times

As soon as the ball dropped on New Year's eve, I reached for one of the last Christmas cookies. These cookies had been staring me in the face ever since I brought them home from a cookie party a week before Christmas. Now they were mine!
At 12:01, I ate the cookie, followed by some turkey with mayo. (I had purchased the mayo a couple of weeks in advance, in anticipation of the new year.) I woke up in the middle of the night, sick. Guess I will have to ease back into mayo, or maybe give it up altogether.
Many reintroduced foods have been a challenge for me in the past couple of weeks. There is something really wrong with lots of the conventional food that many of us buy. I visited a discount store and bought a few condiments and olive/type concoctions. Many of the food items in the store, if they were labeled at all, came from China. I don't really trust this food anymore, and will ease back into as much local food as much as I can muster.
This week, I have been enjoying the re-emergence of local navel oranges, limes and tangerines brought to the table. The Meyer lemons growing in my backyard are almost ripe. I have added beyond-100-mile California almonds, raisins and milk back into my diet, with an occasional banana from somewhere else. We enjoyed a large plate of steamed carrots, turnips and asparagus harvested from the community garden, along with the usual leeks and greens. I have prepared chayote in many new ways.
So this year I resolve to find more friends in warmer locations to grow backyard bananas, to learn how to make some decent pickles and kraut and to move farther away from "denatured" foods of all kinds.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

We're Done!

The yearlong food experiment is over, and we celebrated with a wonderful potluck at Jo and Kris's home. Most of the remaining core members brought a dish still made with local foods, but with a few non-local flourishes. Kris kept us filled with fresh coffee, offering dabs of local honey and some coconut milk. It sure is nice to have coffee all the time!
Though I had plenty of difficult days, I am certainly glad, now that it is over, that I participated in the food challenge all year. Things I thought would be really hard turned out to be pretty easy. I really had not too much trouble going without prepared condiments and exotic spices. I was surprised that the social aspect of eating with my friends would be the hardest challenge of the year.
It was pretty fun on the first day of this year, hearing each remaining core member recount their experiences. I wasn't the only participant who found themselves becoming uncharacteristically picky about the quality of their food, their lessening comfort level upon visiting a typical grocery store, their continuing commitment to local eating and the big reduction in their trash.
Will I continue? You bet, with the Locavore Lite 2010 plan. I will continue to try to grow as much of my own food as I can, eat locally-grown foods, trade with my friends and neighbors and eat as close to the ground as I can. But this week has also included Napa Valley wine, Indian spices, coffee, wheat berries and miso soup.