We’ve Moved!

Learning and Yearning has moved to its own self hosted domain, http://learningandyearning.com/!!! But that means that you will have to sign up again if you wish to continue to receive my posts automatically. Visit my new site at the link above. Everything will look the same to you, but believe me, Homestead Hosts worked like mad to move everything over. Please add your email to the box on the right (at the new site, not here); I would sure appreciate it. You’ve been so much fun, and I’d hate to loose you.

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My Clean Food Journey

Henny Penny with Jessica and Mike. That hen gives us some good eggs! Photo by Joanna Nunemaker.

The past three years or so have seen dramatic changes in the food we eat. I have been gardening since I’m 16, so vegetables have always been a staple. We have alway purchased whole grain bread and have even ground our own whole wheat flour at times. We purchased raw milk from a neighbor in our early married years. I was a sugar addict as a child, but I got that out of my system a long time ago and rarely, if ever, crave sugar. But we have taken our food purchases and preparations to a new level more recently.

It began with meat after seeing the documentary Food, Inc. I guess I was asleep but I really did not understand the extent to which our farming system had changed. The factory model has been applied to how animals are raised to the detriment of both animals and the people who eat those animals. How an animal is raised and what it is fed determines not just how nutritious it is, but whether it is nutritious at all. Animals raised on pasture have meat that is chemically different than animals raised in CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). Some of the benefits of eating pasture raised meat may be found here. We now buy all of our meat and eggs exclusively from farms that we have visited to assure that the animals are raised in a healthy manner.

More recently, I have come to realize that for my body to be nourished, it has to be able to digest the food. Sounds like a “no duh”, but much of what we eat is not so easy to digest. Seeds, nuts and grains need sprouting or soaking for our bodies to get the most out of them. I have had food intolerances for years. Guess which foods bother me the most? In addition to dairy, it’s seeds, nuts and grains.  Nourishing Traditions is my go to book for info on properly preparing these hard to digest foods.

We lived in the country for only a year in our early marriage, and so it was only a year that we were able to enjoy farm fresh raw milk from our neighbor. We have begun to again find sources for raw milk and cheese, and make our own yogurt. As long as I enjoy in moderation, I’m able to eat these foods that bothered me for so many years. Enzymes that are destroyed in pasteurization enable me to digest it more properly.

During gardening season, we enjoy lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. And yes, we purchase fresh during the winter, too. But, we now also rely on lacto-fermentation to preserve and increase the nutrients of many of the vegetables we eat. This is how our ancestors, and traditional societies preserved food without canning or freezing. Lacto-fermentation not only preserves our garden produce, but it is full of beneficial bacteria which help to keep our guts healthy. The Weston A. Price Foundation has more information here. We’ve also invested in a juicer and have increased our vegetable intake through juicing. On my wish list is a dehydrator for preserving fruits and vegetables, but for now I have used my oven to dry tomatoes if the sun is not shining.

I have far to go and so much to learn but I am loving the journey! And I love that the world that our Creator gave us is more respected when we eat this way. What I try to do, most of all, is purchase single ingredients and make as much as I can from scratch. It’s not so difficult these days with conveniences like bread machines and food processors. I’d love to hear about your journey, big or small. And, please give me advice on ways that I can move forward.

Disclaimer: I am an Amazon affiliate and I do earn a small tiny percentage of purchases made when you click through to Amazon from my blog. Every little bit helps me to move forward in my blogging journey. Maybe I’ll even be able to get that dehydrator one of these days!

Shared at: Monday Mania

Posted in Food, Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ramps, or Wild Leeks

Walking along a bubbling brook yesterday, I stumbled upon a lovely patch of ramps. Also known as wild leeks, ramps are native to the Appalachian mountain region in North America. The perennial is found in deciduous forests in the spring. The bulb has a lovely onion-garlic taste and is delicious raw, or lightly sauteed. It can also be used in recipes which call for leeks, or as a substitute for onions. Last night, I sauteed some with salmon, and this evening, I made Ramp-Potato Soup:

  • 1 c. thinly sliced ramps, including bulb, stem, and leaves
  • 3 stalks thinly sliced celery
  • 3 T. butter
  • 4 c. chicken broth
  • 3 – 4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 c. half and half
  • sea salt
  • pepper

Saute the leeks and celery in the melted butter for about 10 minutes. Add 1 cup of chicken broth, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and the remaining broth, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 – 20 minutes. Add the half and half, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve garnished with parsley.

Here’s the range map so you can check to see if they grow in your area: Map

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Posted in Food, Nature | Tagged , , , , | 26 Comments

My Definition of Fast Food

As I was cooking dinner this evening, it hit me that THIS is what should come to mind when we hear the term “fast food”. A meal cooked and on the table in 20 minutes. I made Parsley Potatoes, Salmon sautéed with ramps, red peppers, and mango and a Salad.

Here’s the count down:

5:40 – 5:45 p.m. Preheat a skillet on medium heat for the salmon, scrub the ‘taters and cut them into 1/2″ cubes. Add them to a pot with some sea salt and just enough water to keep them from burning – no more than an inch in the bottom of the pot. Turn on high heat.

5:45 – 5:53 p.m. Add a few T of butter (one of these days I’ll get around to telling you why butter is a true health food) to the preheated pan. When it melts, add the salmon filet, skin side down. When the potatoes begin to boil, turn the heat down to simmer. Check the water level. The trick is to have just enough water to cook them, without any left over. Chop the ramps, red pepper, and mango and toss into pan with the salmon.

5:53 – 6:00 p.m. Flip the salmon and stir the chutney. Put together a tossed salad while the potatoes and salmon finish cooking. Toss with oil and vinegar. Add a T or so of butter to the potatoes. Sprinkle with parsley.

6:00 p.m. Prepare each plate with a serving of salad, a scoop of potatoes and a piece of salmon. Cover the salmon with mango/pepper chutney. Sit down, thank God for this incredible blessing, and enjoy!

What’s your definition of fast food?

Shared at: Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, Teach Me Tuesday, Tuesday Garden Party, Happy 2Day, Whole Food Wednesday, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Simple Living Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, Fight Back Friday, Freaky Friday, Farmgirl Friday

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Lessons from Cuba: Farming and Urban Gardening

Before its collapse, the USSR had been providing Cuba with much of its oil, farm equipment, pesticides, fertilizer and food. Cuba, in return, provided them with sugar. All of this ended with the break-up of the Soviet Union. This was a crisis for the small island nation who grew little of its own food (sugar and tobacco were its main crops). Cuba was starving and the average person lost 20 pounds during this time. By necessity, Cubans began growing their own food. And they did it in every corner of land that they could find. Without pesticides and petroleum based fertilizers, they had no choice but to grow their food organically. Cubans, up to this point, were not big vegetable eaters and the meat they ate was from factory farms. Diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer were relatively common. In addition, with major shortages of gasoline, they began riding bikes instead of taking their cars. Many farmers were forced to farm with oxen. By necessity, their diets changed, and the country is now growing up to 80% of its fruits and vegetables. Produce stands are numerous, and much of the fruits and vegetables available at the stands were grown within walking distance. During the time of transition, many people, especially children and pregnant women, suffered from malnourishment related illnesses. But now, with the drastic change in diet and the increase in exercise from walking and bike riding, cases of diabetes, heart disease and cancer have been significantly reduced.

Although this story can clearly not be separated from politics, that is not the point of my article. (If you comment, and choose to make your comment political, please excuse me from engaging in the conversation.) I clearly do not wish to see my country, the United States, have to suffer what these people have suffered. But my country is suffering from a crisis of health that has less to do with insurance and politics, than with the choices we make every time we eat. We need to take responsibility for our own health, and one way that many of us can begin is by gardening. Yes, urban gardening is growing in our cities and I’m thankful. I live in small town America. I walk my streets and something is missing. Gardens are few and far between. But I am encouraged. As a Master Gardener, rarely a week goes by that someone does not ask me how to start a garden, or how to improve the one they have. I hope we can learn a little from the people of Cuba without having to suffer what they have suffered.

Shared at Sunday School, Monday ManiaFat Tuesday, Homestead Barn Hop, Teach Me Tuesday, Tuesday Garden Party, Country Garden Showcase, Real Food Wednesday, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Whole Food Wednesdays, Homestead Helps, Simple Living Wednesday, Healthy 2Today, Rural Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Fight Back Friday, Farmgirl Friday, Freaky Friday

Posted in Food, Gardening - Inspiration, Health | Tagged , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Pliers – A Helpful Kitchen Tool for Making Broth

After you roast, or otherwise cook a chicken, do you use the bones to make broth? It’s so wonderfully healthy, easy to digest, and a great way to stretch your food budget dollars. Using pliers, I have found a way to extract even more minerals from those bones! I always crack the bones before making the broth so that all of the marrow is released. Here’s how I make chicken bone broth: I cover the cracked bones with water and add a whole peeled onion, several carrots, a bunch of celery leaves, and a few bay leaves. I also add a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar to further release the minerals. I bring this to a boil and then slowly simmer for 8 – 24 hours. This may also be done in a crockpot. Cool the broth and strain. I pick out any meat that was left on the bones, especially the tender meat from the neck. I use this if I am making chicken soup, or use it in another dish if I just want broth. My broth is much darker than any from a can because of all the added minerals. And it’s oh so delicious! If you don’t have pliers in your kitchen, I highly recommend that you remedy that soon. What other ways do you use pliers, or other tools, in your kitchen?

For more info on beef, chicken and fish broths, see Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig.

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Homemade Yogurt, Ready to Pack in a Lunch, Made in a Picnic Cooler

I know, it’s a ridiculously long title, but just “Homemade Yogurt” didn’t say it all. Because I wanted to tell you not only how to make yogurt, but how to make it so that it’s ready to pack into your husband’s or child’s lunch. And, how I make it in a cooler – no need for a yogurt maker! Hence, the loquacious title.

Ok, so here is how I do it. I make only a quart at a time, but this can easily be doubled. On low heat, I heat 3 1/2 cups of raw milk to 185º, stirring frequently. (Alternately, you may heat this to only 110 degrees for yogurt that is still raw, but it will be more of a drinkable yogurt.) Remove the milk from the heat and cool to 110º. I use a candy thermometer to determine the temperature. When the milk is at 110º, I stir in 1/2 cup of yogurt from a previous batch. You may use plain, good quality store bought yogurt if this is your first batch. I then pour into 4 oz canning jars, leaving room at the top for a topping, to be added later. I screw on the lids and place the jars in an insulated picnic cooler. I then fill a quart canning jar with boiling water and place that in the cooler as well to keep the temperature inside the cooler nice and warm. The lid goes onto the cooler and I go to bed. In the morning, I have 8 little jars of beautiful yogurt. I add a teaspoon or so of fruit jam made with maple syrup to each jar and refrigerate. When I am packing lunches, the yogurt is ready to go.

Shared at Sunday School, Monday Mania, Barn Hop, Harvest Monday, Weekend Gourmet, Fat Tuesday, Teach Me Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Whole Food Wednesday, Homestead Helps, Rural Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Freaky Friday, Farmgirl Friday, Fight Back Friday

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Nourishing One Another

Do you read the sidebars in Nourishing Traditions? This one gave me a chuckle. First, Sally Fallon quotes Jacques DeLangre, founder of the Celtic Sea Salt Company:

When a woman stays at home and cooks with good judgement and understanding, peace and happiness result. She thus controls the family’s health and destiny, also her husband’s mood, disposition and feeling, and assures the futures of her children.

Sally then goes on to re-write the quote:

When a woman stays at home and cooks with good judgement and understanding, she watches with satisfaction as her children grow up capable and strong and her husband maintains the good health and disposition that allow him to succeed in his work. She also maintains her own good health into middle age, the period of her life when, her family duties accomplished, she can plunge vigorously into meaningful work and community service in order to bring peace and happiness to the world, while her husband, retired with satisfaction from a successful career, supports her endeavors and cooks with good judgement for her.

What stage in life are you at? Who is doing the cooking in your home?

Shared at: Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, Teach Me Tuesday, Simple Living Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Whole Food Wednesday, Homestead Helps, Rural Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Freaky Friday, The Country Homemaker, Farmgirl Friday

Posted in Food, Health, Humor (w/a side of Sarcasm) | Tagged , , , , | 22 Comments

Using Hay vs. Straw in the Garden

Search the internet for info on using hay vs. straw as mulch and you’ll see statements like these: “I’ve never made the mistake of using hay”, or “Straw makes great mulch — or, for that matter, a great addition to your compost pile; hay does not”,  and “I inadvertently asked for hay instead of straw one year and that slip of the tongue turned into a nightmare.”

First, let me tell you the difference between straw and hay. Straw is the stalks or stems of grains like wheat, barley, or oats after the grain has been harvested. Hay is grass or legumes that have been cut and dried and is generally used as animal feed. Hay often contains seeds which sprout when used as mulch, which is why there are so many warnings against using it. Straw can also contain seeds if all of the grain was not removed, but in general it is less of a problem.

So, what do I do? I use hay! Here’s why: Hay is mineral rich; straw has little nutrition. My main concern as a gardener is to build my soil. As hay decomposes, it adds many more nutrients to the soil than straw. I also prefer to work with hay finding it much less stiff. I use it as mulch and as I build lasagna gardening beds. Alfalfa hay is particularly rich and I use it often.

So how do I get away with using hay, when there are so many warnings against it? What I do is try to anticipate how many bales I will need next year, and purchase them this year. I leave them out where they will receive rain and snow. Most of the seeds sprout, and the bales begin to decompose. By the time I use them as mulch, or to build a new bed, they already contain worms and other beneficial soil organisms. And weeds are a minor problem, if at all. If you have access to a farmer who has old bales around that he can no longer use to feed his animals, he may just give you the hay. It’s a treasure; take it!

Shared at: Sunday School, Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, Teach Me Tuesday, Tuesday Garden Party, Simple Living Wednesday, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Whole Food Wednesday, Homestead Helps, Garden Club Thursday, Rural Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, The Country Homemaker, Farmgirl Friday, Friday’s Photo, Country Garden Showcase

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Back to Eden

I absolutely love finding out about gardeners/farmers who are innovative and creative. They help me to realize that after almost 40 years of gardening, I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. I find that exciting! Our infinite God has created our world to reflect His character and because of that there will always be something new to learn.

I recently found a documentary that may be viewed for free called Back to Eden. Paul Gautshci’s methods are extremely productive without a lot of back breaking work. He grows in wood chips! Sit back tonight, relax and be prepared to be amazed. You may view the DVD for free here: http://backtoedenfilm.com/ or purchase it here (yeah, that would help me a little).

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Posted in Gardening - How to, Gardening - Inspiration | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments