Monday, August 31, 2009

Considering a wind turbine

Bill and I were at the Illinois Renewable Energy Fair a few weeks ago. We stumbled across a wind turbine vendor who gave us some interesting information. There is a 30% rebate right (off of your tax liability) on renewable energy. I thought turbines were in the neighborhood of $65K+ but it turns out you can put one up that directly grid tied for less than $15K (pre-rebate). We arranged for a site inspection and are awaiting a final quote, but I confess that we are considering it. I will have to run the numbers and see what our payback would be, but if we could essentially be producing our own energy - that is a pretty enticing thought! (We use very little energy - no A/C, efficient lighting, etc. but I will need a couple of refrigerators and freezers at the farm.) Our initial calculations show that it could pay for itself in 10 years.

If anyone has information or experience, I would love to hear them.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Got Zucchini? Make fritters!

I had a huge zucchini in the fridge that my mom gave me. We typically like the young, smaller ones better, but I'm not one to say no to a free zucchini. She actually gave me 3 of them. I've made loaves of zucchini bread and last night I tried zucchini fritters.

We topped them with a dollop of homemade mayo and chopped tomatoes. Delicious!

It was pretty local too. Zucchini from my mom and dad. Bread crumbs were from my own homemade bread (most of the wheat was from Great River Milling in Wisconsin. Eggs were local from Southern Wisc. Garlic, onions, herbs were from my own backyard. Didn't need any milk. Tomatoes (topping) were from my Wisc garden. And a glass of Bauer Kearns wine!

If you haven't tried making your own mayonnaise, I urge you to try - it is delicious!

Zucchini fritters from
4 cups grated zucchini (1 ½ to 2 pounds), squeezed dry
About 1 ½ cups of bread crumbs, flour, or cornmeal (I used ¾ C ww flour, ¾ C bread crumbs, a ¼ C amaranth grains)
2 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
4 scallions, chopped including the greens (I used freshly pulled onions from the garden)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup chopped herbs—any or a combination of parsley, cilantro, basil, mint (I used mint, lemon balm and sorrel)
salt and pepper
A splash of milk or buttermilk, if needed, to give the batter a spoonable texture
Olive oil for the pan

Sprinkle about 1 ½ teaspoons salt over the grated zucchini and set it aside in a colander to drain for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the remaining ingredients together except the oil. After 15 minutes squeeze any excess water from the zucchini and then mix it with the batter. Season with a big pinch of black pepper. Film a large skillet (or two) with 1 Tablespoon or so olive oil. When the pan is hot (on medium heat) drop heaping tablespoons of batter into the skillet. Cook over medium heat until golden brown on the bottom. Flip and cook the second side. Eat while hot with sour cream, yogurt, or salsa verde.Substitutions: grated eggplant, butternut squash, sweet potato, cubes of roasted vegetables

Additions: cheese, other spices or herbs, seeds or nuts.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sun, time and edamame

Before we left Wisconsin on Sunday morning, I harvested all of our potatoes. It was a sad crop. I sometimes get very discouraged when gardening as our home garden in Chicago is more and more shaded by our neighbor's huge Silver Maple so my tomatoes, beets, beans, chard, etc are fairly scraggly. Our Wisconsin garden is so overgrown with weeds since we are only there every two to four weeks that the weeds are often taller than the tomatoes! Anyway, while harvesting my potato crop - that I was never able to hill appropriately, I became discouraged by these attempts to grow our own food. Bill, being a great partner, said 'just think how much you will be able to grow when you actually have sun AND live in the place you grow your food. If you can grow these potatoes and tomatoes and greens without trying - just think of how much you will yield when you are actually able to tend on a regular basis and you have full sun!' It did make me feel better. I did get about 10# of potatoes.

We both worked in the garden for about 3 hours on Sunday morning. I dug up the aforementioned potatoes and planted buckwheat as cover crop on the bare beds. Bill restrung the tomatoes. We think we will end up getting a fair number of tomatoes. I brought a lot of green ones home. Our neighbors' tomatoes are all dying. Ours look fine. hmmmm.... perhaps over fertilizing is the culprit? My grandma's tomatoes also always died early but she loved Miracle Gro and never rotated her locations.

I also found out that our neighbors have hens - I didn't get over to see them, but I will when we are back up over Labor Day.

Last night for supper we had steamed fresh edamame pods. I got them from a farmer coop that delivers to my food coop. They were delicious!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Farmer's Markets at the White House

After seeing President Obama mention that there might be a farmer's market at the White House in the works - I just might have to plan a trip to D.C.!

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Food Manifesto

"We have to stop paying the largest farm subsidies to large growers of unsustainable and inedible crops like cotton. We have to stop paying huge subsidies to Big Corn, Big Soy and Big Chem to use prime farmland to grow fuel, plastics and fructose. We have to stop using federal and state agencies and institutions as taxpayer-funded research arms for the very practices that got us into this mess.

We have to start subsidizing health and well-being by rewarding sustainable practices in agriculture and assuring a safe, adequate and wholesome food supply to all our citizens. And we need to start this reform process now, as part of the national stimulus toward economic recovery."

From Will Allen's (of Growing Power, Inc.) ChangeThis - A Good Food Manifesto for America

Monday, August 10, 2009

Salatin Quote

"Just imagine if people began discovering their kitchens again, and if the average household instead of popping irradiated amalgamated prostituted reconstituted, adulterated, modified and artificially flavored extruded bar coded un-pronounceable things into the microwave, actually prepared whole foods for all-down-together family meals."


Friday, August 7, 2009

Illinois Renewable Energy Association

I will be leading a workshop on composting with worms on Sunday in Oregon, IL at the Illinois Renewable Energy Fair. Stop by and say hello if you happen to be the fair.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Storm and melt water management

We were at the farm this past weekend. If you follow the white fence on the right - see the part that is partially fallen down? It is now totally down. Grant County received 2" of rain in one hour and we had a pretty severe water backup. You can see across the driveway from the part of the fence that is falling down there is a culvert. It is too small, partially crushed on both sides and leads to water backup. The water collects on the right into a big pond which flows over the driveway and then has lots of momentum and force. It isn't in this picture but there was a footbridge over this seasonal creek further to the left. The planks were rotten and we were planning on taking it down anyway - it washed away it is further down the creek near the house.

It was great to see because we need to engineer our way out of this. We also had water flow down the hill behind the house. The grass near the house is all flattened and there was silt at the front door. Water in the cellar too. Bad sign. We are actually rethinking our original plans for the house - as much as I hate to admit it. We are considering turning the house into a garage/summer kitchen/art studio (upstairs) and building a new house connected to the old house (which will now be the garage) by a breezeway.

I have been struggling with this. Bill and I always rehab old buildings. We had done three of them to date - and this one was supposed to be our grande finale! I have been dreaming of rehabbing an old farmhouse for years and giving new life, energy efficiency and another 100 years to an old house.

However, by building new... we could build a small 2 bedroom home that could perhaps be passive solar. Lots to consider.