Friday, January 18, 2013

Chunky Monkey Pancakes

These are a 'treat' pancake that I only make occasionally. They get devoured! I'm afraid if I make them too often, our other 'plainer' pancake recipes would get revolted against!

Chunky Monkey Pancakes
Amy (amylz)
All Recipes Servings: 9

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup skim milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large banana, diced
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped pecans
cooking spray

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Set bowl aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the skim milk, melted butter, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients, being careful not to over mix the batter. Gently fold in the banana, chocolate chips, and nuts. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and coat with cooking spray. Pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the skillet, and cook until bubbles appear on the surface. Flip with a spatula, and cook until browned on the other side.

Noah devouring his Chunky Monkey...which is sweet enough that we don't even need syrup!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Students Grow and Donate Over 100 Pounds of Food

Students in the Study Garden Club sort and weigh some of their harvest to donate to the local food bank

Winter is firmly here; the sweet memories of warm weather, green grass, and a thriving garden are becoming more distant. Though new excitement comes along with snow (snow angels and subsequent snow ball fights, followed by hot cocoa indoors), the nostalgia of running out to the garden, sans shoes and socks, can hit hard. Especially for kids; a month might as well be a year--a whole winter seems a lifetime!

Will summer ever come back? To keep the memory alive, it's fun to look back at the previous growing season. Not just our own fun pictures (of which we have hundreds), but also pictures of what other people have grown.

I found this series of pictures on Facebook, and was utterly thrilled. The school, Study Elementary, is in our school system. I've driven past Study hundreds of times, but have never visited--though now I'm so fascinated by the work of the Garden Club that I'm pondering: how odd would it be for a stranger to request a visit during the growing-garden months? 

The coolest thing about the Study Garden Club is this: The club set a goal to grow and donate 100 pounds of food to our local food bank. When they tallied up their totals, they had surpassed the goal; 114 pounds of fresh produce had made its way to Community Harvest food bank. What an amazing success! I looked and found that a local newspaper noted the donation here, at this link.

Every school should have a garden, and a Garden Club with active membership.  Enjoy these pictures of Study Garden Club. My little crew of gardeners and I loved seeing what Study's students grew, and can't wait until it's time to get back out and try some new ideas for ourselves. Perhaps we will even try our hand at growing a cotton plant (as you'll see in the following pics, Study did just that) this upcoming season! 







Some of the fresh tomatoes donated to Community Harvest

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Review: On Good Land

I stumbled on this book at the library while hunting down gardening books. Written in 1998, it describes the history of Fairview Gardens in Goleta, California.  It's a quick read with its thick, glossy pages and numerous photos (though maddeningly without captions). It's yet another example of my being late to the party (I'm an overly excited 'noob' about all things gardening and sustainable living—much has been written on the topic over the years). Lucky for me, I found it—it's a fantastic story and a perfect model of how agriculture might survive in tiny bits and pieces among unending suburban sprawl.

Right away the book captures the imagination with google-map style views of Fairview Gardens: one picture taken in 1954 and one in 1998. This 12 acre parcel of land has literally been swallowed by suburban sprawl, highways and development, yet it thrives as an organic farm.

The story of how this land was kept from being turned into development itself is an inspiring tale. Author Michael Ableman takes over as a 'manager' of the land, living in its rickety old farmhouse with his wife and new baby, and tending the small orchards and fields, though he must report to the land's long-time owners, the Chapmans. He has expensive false starts (a whole orchard of green peaches, planted, tended, and harvested with immense care, that never proved sellable) and many tough obstacles (accidentally bursting irrigation pipes and causing a flood), but nothing provides as much frustration and challenge as the neighbors. Many are outright angry and want him—and the farm--gone. They had not purchased an expensive home in a sought-after neighborhood only to learn after the fact that a rotting compost pile lay behind their yard, or that roosters would crow in the early hours. Or that a tractor would make its rounds, quite literally in their backyards.

Never knowing exactly how he would save the land from being sold by the owners to development,  Ableman charges forward, working hard and winning over neighbors who learn to love the fresh food the farm produced. Ableman never shies from reaching out to everyone around him, whether to stand up to their demands or to calmly invite them to come see for themselves what was happening on the farm. He exhibits a gutsy determination that I find admirable. There are times it seems it would be much easier to give up on this parcel of land and try his hand at farming somewhere else (at one point his father offers him family land in Deleware--a climate that would in many ways be easier to deal with). However, Ableman perseveres through setbacks and even a divorce. After over a decade of challenges, sweat, and tears, the landowners allow the 13 acres to sell (for a whopping 750k)...but NOT to the developers. Cornelia Chapman allowed Ableman and a group of committed activists in the community—who formed a non-profit organization--to purchase the land and place it in a public trust. In Ableman's words:

“Fairview Gardens was never mine—and not just because someone else held the title. I have known for a long time that its role was to be a public place. It could never be just a private farm, or someone's personal retreat back to the land. Instead, this farm has provided a way for people to reclaim a connection to one of the most important and intimate acts: growing the food that they and their children eat. Over the course of a few generations, most people have given that power away to distant farms. They let this vital process take place out of sight, losing the pleasures and the connections that come with it. ...We cannot all go back to the land, but we can provide something of the land to everyone.”

Ableman's book is succinct, and his words are powerful; none wasted. Although the book is very quick and easy to read, it doesn't lack in humor, insight, and powerful motivation.  Models like Fairview Gardens will be more and more necessary as we navigate new ideas for agriculture (namely, small community farms). I was thrilled to have happened upon such a gem, and I plan to look into the present day Fairveiw Gardens at

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Story of Glass Gem Corn: Beauty, History, and Hope

Wow! This corn looks so beautiful! I'd love to try growing some! -Andi

The Story of Glass Gem Corn: Beauty, History, and Hope

  By Steven Thomas |

If you’ve spent any time online lately, you might have noticed a striking photo making its rounds. Feast your eyes on Glass Gem corn: a stunning, multi-colored heirloom that has taken Facebook and the blogosphere by storm. With its opalescent kernels glimmering like rare jewels, it’s easy to see what the buzz is about. This is some truly mind-blowing maize.
For the staff at the Tucson-based seed conservation nonprofit Native Seeds/SEARCH, the viral explosion of interest in Glass Gem has been thrilling—but not surprising. As the proud stewards of this variety (along with the bioregional seed company, Seeds Trust) we are lucky enough to have grown and admired this extraordinary corn ourselves. Rest assured, this is no Photoshop sham. It is truly as stunning held in your your hand as it is on your computer screen. When you peel back the husk from a freshly harvested ear to reveal the rainbow of colors inside, it’s like unwrapping a magical present. And this is a gift that is meant to be shared far and wide.
Like many heirloom treasures, Glass Gem corn has a name, a place, and a story. Its origin traces back to Carl Barnes, a part-Cherokee farmer living in Oklahoma. Barnes had an uncanny knack for corn breeding. More specifically, he excelled at selecting and saving seed from those cobs that exhibited vivid, translucent colors. Exactly how long Barnes worked on Glass Gem—how many successive seasons he carefully chose, saved, and replanted these special seeds—is unknown. But after many years, his painstaking efforts created a wondrous corn cultivar that has now captivated thousands of people around the world.
Approaching the end of his life, Barnes bestowed his precious seed collection to Greg Schoen, his corn-breeding protégé. The weighty responsibility of protecting these seeds was not lost on Schoen. While in the process of moving in 2010, he sought out a place to store a sampling of the collection to ensure its safekeeping. Schoen passed on several unique corn varieties to fellow seedsman Bill McDorman, who was owner at the time of Seeds Trust, a small family seed company then located in central Arizona. (Today, Bill McDorman is Executive Director of Native Seeds/SEARCH.) Curious about the oddly named Glass Gems, he planted a handful of seeds in his garden. The spectacular plants that emerged took him by surprise. “I was blown away,” McDorman recalls. “No one had ever seen corn like this before.”
The story of Barnes, Schoen, and their remarkable corn is not unusual. For millennia, people have elegantly interacted with the plants that sustain them through careful selection and seed saving. This process, repeated year after year, changes and adapts the plants to take on any number of desirable characteristics, from enhanced color and flavor to disease resistance and hardiness.
The bounty of genetic diversity our ancestral farmers and gardeners created in this way was shared and handed down across generations. But under today’s industrial agricultural paradigm of monocropping, GMOs, and hybrid seeds, this incredible diversity has been narrowed to a shred of its former abundance. A 1983 study compared the seed varieties found in the USDA seed bank at the time with those available in commercial seed catalogs in 1903. The results were striking. Of the 408 different tomato varieties on the market at the turn of the century, less than 80 were present in the USDA collection. Similarly, lettuces that once flourished with 497 heirloom varieties were only represented by 36 varieties. The same held true for most other veggies including sweet corn, of which only a dozen cultivars were preserved out of 307 unique varieties once available in the catalogs. Though this data leaves some questions around actual diversity decline, the trend toward dwindling crop diversity is alarming. In just a few generations, both the time-honored knowledge of seed saving and many irreplaceable seeds are in danger of disappearing.
Though much of this diversity may be gone, all hope is not lost. The emergence of a breathtaking heirloom variety like Glass Gem reveals that the art and magic of seed saving lives on. It reminds us that we can return to this age-old practice and restore beauty, wonder, and abundance to our world. Indeed, this renaissance is already underway. The rising seed library movement is encouraging local gardeners to become crop breeders and empowering communities to reclaim sovereignty over their food. Our pioneering Seed School program at Native Seeds/SEARCH is training people from all walks of life in building sustainable local seed systems rooted in ancient traditions. And as eye-popping images of Glass Gem continue to spread around the world, Carl Barnes’ kaleidoscopic corn has become a beacon—and perhaps an inspiring symbol—for the global seed-saving revival.
To Purchase Glass Gem Seed
Many people have contacted us looking to obtain Glass Gem seed. We are currently sold out of the small quantity we had in stock, but there are plans to grow out a substantial amount this summer. Fresh seed should be available by October 2012. In the meantime, we have set up a waiting list for all who wish to purchase Glass Gem. Click here to be added to the list, and you will be notified as soon it becomes available. Native Seeds/SEARCH members will get priority access; click here to become a member. For those that have asked about its edibility, Glass Gem is a flint corn used for making flour or as a popping corn. Unlike sweet corn, it is not edible right off the cob. However, it was likely bred as an ornamental variety—for obvious reasons. Many of these exquisite ears are simply too beautiful to eat.
We encourage everyone who grows Glass Gem corn to rejoin the ritual of seed saving by setting aside your favorite selections for replanting the following year. Share seed with your friends and neighbors, organize a seed swap, or start a seed library in your community. Support Native Seeds/SEARCH in our work to conserve and protect Glass Gem corn along with the nearly 2,000 rare, aridlands-adapted crop varieties we steward in our seed bank. Your efforts and energy make a difference. As Carl Barnes has taught us, all it takes is one person to create a more colorful, diverse and abundant world—one seed at a time.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Toilet Paper Tube Snowflakes (or flowers!)

This is a seriously simple way to use up some toilet paper tubes and add some pretty decorations to windows and door handles during the winter!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Rosemary Bread

What is it that makes rosemary and bread go together SO well? I can't believe how amazing this bread tastes. Everyone loved it!

If you have some rosemary hanging around that you snipped from the garden last summer, make a loaf of this...along with a pot of your favorite soup or chili. Your night will be warm, toasty, and tasty!

This is fine made with or without a food processor.

Rosemary Bread 
(copycat from Romano's Macaroni Grill)

1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons rosemary
2 tablespoons butter

Place yeast, sugar and water in large bowl or food processor and allow mixture to become bubbly.
Mix in 1 T butter, salt, and 2 cups of flour.
Add one tablespoon of the fresh chopped rosemary.
Knead for about 10 minutes by hand or in food processor about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.
Add more flour if necessary.
Oil a bowl, put dough in it and cover with a towel.
Let dough rise in a warm place for one hour until doubled.
Punch down dough and divide in half.
Let dough rest about 5 minutes.
Spray baking pan or cookie sheet with cooking spray.
Shape the dough into 2 small rounded oval loaves.
Sprinkle remaining 1 Tablespoon of rosemary over the loaves and press lightly into the surface.
Let loaves rise again until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned.
Carefully remove from oven, brush with remaining butter (and salt if desired.).