Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cooking Blog

Interested in using fresh foods from the garden to cook up healthy meals from scratch?  You might check out the From Processed to Pure food blog by Donna Bauman.

Here is her self description in case you need a little information before you go and check out her blog:

I consider myself first generation holistic when it comes to food. I have no familial road map to guide me in my fascination with things fermented. For most of my life I ate without really paying attention to what was IN my food. In early adulthood I outsourced much of my nutrition to supermarket packaged goods and restaurants. The transformation back to the kitchen has many chapters. When I became a mother to four children I started to see how food choices could have a big impact on our quality of life. This motivated me to challenge everything and I started reading food labels. And along the way, when I least expected it, I fell in love. With real food. So much that the girl who took shop class instead of home economics in junior high as an act of civil disobedience became the woman who has now donned her apron not out of obligation but with pride and boundless enthusiasm. If we change our kitchens, we can change our world. I am honored to share some of this journey back to the kitchen with you!

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mushroom workshop

If the earlier posts on 5th grade's adventure with Shiitake planting piqued your interest, you might check out one of the shiitake workshops at Pickards Mountain Eco-Institute in Chapel Hill, NC.  You have your choice of several possible times on March 26 and April 2 and you even get to bring home your own inoculated log.

March 16

Third grade has been getting into all aspects of composting.  They spent quite a bit of time over the winter sawing pieces of wood to the correct lengths so that we could build compost sifters.  We use the sifters at the very end of our composting process by rubbing the finished compost through the wire mesh to sift out any large pieces that didn't get broken down enough and to break up any big chunks.  The finished product is a lovely damp, soft, rich brown earth.  Below you can see them working on the final steps in building the sifters.

 When we start building our compost, we build layers of weeds, kitchen scraps and manure.  When the pile is large enough, we add biodynamic preps and put the pile to bed for around 6 months.  Here is a whole train of students bringing manure to our newest pile.

Last but not least, here is a group of students working with Kimani, one of our high school senior volunteers, to create a trellis for the peas.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

One more mushroom picture

I forgot to include this pic in the piece about mushroom planting I did earlier.  This one gives a great overview of the whole project, from drilling to sealing with the wax.

March 7

The 9th grade work crew came out today.  When you can capture their attention and focus their power, they are a force to be reckoned with in the garden.

Here you can see some of them working on clearing out the area for our coming bee hives.

There was a tangle of brush to clear at one end of the area.
Here is another batch of fellows clearing off the old pile of dried weeds and carrying it over to the new compost pile.  

What with our renter, Sarah, boarding extra horses and a load of black gold (cow manure) from Minka Farm gathered by our own 3rd graders on Friday and delivered by Farmer Kimberly, we have plenty of nutritious "stuff" for this spring's compost pile.  The biodynamic compost preps will be arriving in early April and we'll have good compost just in time for fall bed prep if all goes well.  

March 4th

The day was bright and sunny.  The daffodils were in bloom.  Friday was a great day.  Therisa and I finished redoing the rock borders on the flower beds, added feather meal, kelp meal, and biodynamic compost and turned the soil.  Then we dug up some iris that had gone wild in a shady place.  The constant shade meant that they never bloom.  Here's hoping we'll have blooms this year.  Above is Therisa watering the newly planted iris.

Here is one of the first brave asparagus peaking out for a day in the sun.

And here is a row of peas with the start of a new trellising system that 3rd grade is working on.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Shiitake Mushrooms

Fifth grade came out to the garden and planted mushrooms on Valentine's day.  Chris Richmond, our mushroom mentor brought all of the equipment we needed and told us a little bit about mushrooms and how to plant them before we got started.
Ian, our handy-dandy maintenance dude drilled holes in logs.  For this batch of shiitake we used sweetgum logs.
Next we loaded up our inoculators by tapping them in a can of spore mixed with sawdust:
We put the inoculators over the drilled holes and pushed the spore mix into the holes:
The log was then moved down the table for sealing.  The children took swabs of hot, food grade paraffin and sealed the spore holes and any other open spots on the logs in order to keep moisture out and prevent other fungus spores from getting in.
The finished logs were then carried over to the log pile where they will wait until this time next year to bloom.  If we are lucky, we'll get a few mushrooms as early as this fall.  
Note that there are two children carrying what looks like fairly small logs.  These are fresh cut logs with most of the sap still in so they are very heavy!  Below is the start of one of our log piles:
Once all of the logs were finished and piled, Ian and Chris (our mushroom planting instructor) painted the ends with more wax.  Below is a picture of the finished piles.
If you are interested in learning more about planting shiitake or other mushrooms or ordering supplies for planting, check out Field and Forest.  If you would like to know more about mushrooms in general, Mycelium Running is an excellent book to have a look at.  If you live in the Chapel Hill, NC area you could also contact our mushroom guide, Chris Richmond at 919-932-1335 or via email at