Ninjas vs Zombies

Hoo boy is it summer, eh? Those poor ninjas in their black outfits–Stay hydrated, secret dudes! And those zombies are really starting to smell in this heat.

This week has been an interesting one on DorkCargo, starting with a bitter blood feud and culminating in a reminder of how awesome it is that the Karmic Wheel didn’t toss me off in Afghanistan. I thought I’d add one more for the week, another one of these Zombie vs Ninja questions for which there is no right answer.

Local vs Organic.

I know, I know. 1) what does this have to do with books; 2) why does it have to be one or the other; and 3) haven’t we all gone round and round this a million times in our own lives?

At the house of DC we have been radically changing the way we eat: what we eat, how much of it we eat, and where it comes from. It takes for bloody ever now do do the damn shopping, but it actually costs less because we’re eating less. The three points of the food decision decision triangle for me are: organic, local and cost. (photos below are from Whole Paycheck Foods. the first is of non-organic but local, the other is of organic but very not local, the peppers are from holland.)

What I want to know from y’all is your story. Have you made such a change? Why? What are the food shopping and consumption rules you have made for yourself and your family? Any luck getting the Spousal Unit on board with this whole “let’s change the way we eat” plan? Do your kids care?

Diet and nutrition are intensely personal journeys. What and why of my diet choices won’t work for you, and your nutty food ideas won’t necessarily fly round here. But I know that a lot of you do shop at your local farmer markets, have changed the way you eat, or have gone off and started your own farm.

Here’s how this relates to books.

It occurred to me that even though my thoughts and values were in the right place, my actions and food consumption were not. I realized this, like one of those shafts of sunlight parting the clouds in religious iconography, when shopping for food for our roommate at ConCarolinas: committing to a lifestyle change means changing all of my life, all the time, not just picking and choosing when to occasionally commit to some arbitrary values.

I believe that we get a lot of encouragement and gentle reminders and inspiration from our peers. (“If he can do this, I can do this.”) Take a moment to tell us your “what and why”, leave some encouragement for someone else, and take some away for yourself.



Localvorism – Can I pull It Off?

I recently finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and it was yet another book that goes into the principles of eating organically and growing your own food. But this book introduced me to another concept that goes hand-in-hand with those two: localvorism.

Should I be looking for some other grain in my corn tostadas?

Basically, try to eat food that is local. Set yourself a mile-radius limit. 250 miles is recommended for drier, harsher climates and usually 100 miles for more lush climates. Think about it. Where does your cheese come from? Your cereal and milk? How about that chicken and asparagus you had last week? And in eating local organic, you are automatically going to be eating by the seasons. Contemplate that. Go ahead – take the David-the-Thinker pose. No strawberries in December, no peas in deep summer.

Traveling Grapes

This generation of Americans are unusual – an not just for the sloppy pants dress and thrash metal music. We are unusual because we don’t know specifically where your food comes from. For many folks they don’t know the farmer, or where the farm is. Many city dwellers have no place to grow their own food. This is a new turn for our species. Some would say that’s OK. It’s the future. Everything comes in a square or rectangle shape and is heavily processed for our safety, digestibility, and palatability.

Isn't it suppose to be a few nuts and all grains already?

I grew up in this culture. I grew up quite OK with it, not giving it any thought. But the past few years, I have started thinking about it. I like thinking (though don’t try to picture me in the naked-man David Thinker pose). So once I finished this book, I started looking at my food. Oranges in February – How many people handled these? How much oil was needed to get them to my table? Was the plastic and cardboard packaging used to transport it recycled/reused?

Just food for thought. What has your food thought for you lately?

Pure means 1 ingredient, right?

Delectable Fungi

We have never been leery of eating fungus, unless it is an unidentified one we found in the woods. We like our mushrooms and eat them a few times a week. So when I stumbled upon Fungi Perfecti and learned that I could grow my own mushrooms out under the wild plum trees or in my spare bathroom, I was pretty psyched.

Fresh mushrooms, like picked and cooked the same day, are very different from store-bought. They are not styrofoam-like, but rather more meat like in texture. The flavor is awesome.  We ordered 2 mushroom kits – shitake and blue oyster, both of which are Easy Level – like for kids. At the end of this experiment, we took our mushroom medium outside and broke it up the wild plum trees and covered with mulch. I don’t know if it will take, but it would be awesome to have a tame mushroom patch.

Here is a photo history of Mushroom Experiment #1

Each bag of mushroom-media comes in a nice box.

Shitake mushroom media. The blue oyster medium was more sawdust like.

Little blue oysters budding out.

Blue oysters pose for a phot shoot before heading off to dinner.

Shitake nearly ready for picking.

More blue oysters for the dinner table.

A single shitake about to hit the cutting board.

My little fist next to a blue oyster.

Chopped mushrooms!

Sauteed mushroom goodness, to go over rice.

Baklava Makes a Happy New Year

Nuts & Giant Cinnamon Stick

Starting the Spiced Honey Citrus Syrup

Spices, Ground Nuts, Sugar

Melted Butter to Go on EVERY Layer of Phyllo Dough

Space Out Those Layers Containing Nut Mix

Big Sharp Knife to Cut Into Diamonds

Pour Any Remaining Butter Over Diamonds Before Baking

Remove Solids From Syrup, Taste Test

Baked Baklava

Drizzle Syrup Over Hot Baklava

Let Cool and Then Enjoy Some Sticky Sweet New Year

Blogging Companions

Your indulgence, please.

I have been told that I am not a very concise writer, and that is true. I love words, and putting them together. I revel in using them to gush over beloved books and favorite authors. This blog has been good for me. So here is a little bit about my blogging companions.

They have the most expressive faces.

They enjoy the same snacks I do.

They are fuzzy and four legged.

Majestic Jeegs

Jigan is our franken-pitbull. He came with many scars, and has had a few surgeries along the way. In short, he has gotten more fugly over the years.

Tanuki is a shelter mut that Jigan picked out last April. Let me be absolutely clear on this: Tanuki is Jigan’s dog. Jigan has never really taken to another dog in his long years with us. Finally, at the age of 12 he was suffering from loneliness and trying to chew a hole through very solid doors while we were both at work. So we sucked in a deep breath, and took the plunge. We drove Jigan to the shelter one Saturday morning and proceeded to introduce him to a few female pitbull mixes in the shelter’s play areas. None of them took. We were ready to pack it in and give the doggy psychologist a call. We made one more walk through the warren of adoptable dogs, and there was Tanuki, all 70 lbs of him in fuzzy greatness. He had literally just arrived from foster care and vet signing off on his adoptability 15 minutes prior to meeting us.

Tanuki Prior To Hair Cut

Well, we turned the two loose in the play pen and within 10 minutes we knew. So after signing away my first born child and a reasonable check, I was able to put a lead on Tanuki and pack him in the car and cart him home. Jigan’s depression and anxiety have been gone since Night 1 of bringing Tanuki home. Tanuki will spend hours grooming his pitbull, and Jigan loves it. They cuddle and play that infuriatingly annoying game of Who’s Mouth Is Bigger. They zip as fast as they can through the living room, occasionally knocking over furniture. And they are both exquisitely expressive while begging for treats.

So two months ago, Jigan was suffering from skin allergies, an on-going condition. This time around he had a a few odd bumps. So off the vet’s for a prednisone shot for the allergies. However, the vet had never seen a case of bumps like his. The other resident vet was called in and had no clue either. They excised two of the lumps and sent them off for analysis. A few days later, I got a call that started with telling me stuff about the ‘mitotic index’ and such. No good call starts with technical details like that, so I was prepared when, 7.5 minutes later, the vet told me Jigan had terminal cancer and the best we can do is make him comfortable for as long as possible.

Jigan and Tanuki Begging for Pistachios

Jigan is now ~13 years old, and I figure he has had a good long run. So far, the daily pill of prednisone is keeping him pain-free and active. I don’t know how long he will be around, but looking back am I ever glad we took that plunge and got Jigan a dog of his own.

Round Table Farms: The Harvest

October 8th, a Saturday, was our first snow this year. Which signals the time for the harvest. So the past weekend was spent in a frenzy of picking, gathering, and dirt grubbing. We planted a lot of beans this year – all sorts of different colors and shapes. My mom gave me this questionable bag of legumes. “16 Legume Soup” is what was proudly, even flamboyantly, thrown across the bag. Well, I know how I react to just a single legume in my soup. So, I planted the Legume Soup. There were peas in there as well, so now I have not only beans to shuck but also black-eyed and sweet peas.

Purple Beans!

Beans and Chile

Pepto Pink Beans

We also planted a bit of corn, but we are still learning when to pick. Size is not the only factor when considering a nice cob of corn. Sweetness goes a long way too. And so does being free of parasites like black mold and big fat catepillars. Consequently, the chickens got quite a bit of the corn. The bugs were a bonus.

Corn - Mostly for the Chickens

The squash did not fair so well this year. We had quite the squash bug infestation. What squash we did get often had a very tough hide, which if eaten, acted as a gut scraper. Next year we plan to plant islands of squash instead of rows. It might help to isolate the bugs… maybe.

Cucumbers - Wannabe Pickles

But the cucumbers did pretty well. We planted several kinds, planning to try our hand at pickling.

Wee Little Funky Chiles

This was our first year for a successful chile crop. We are big on our chile here and there are very few things better than the smell of roasted green chiles.

Turnips - That Slightly Spicy Potatoe

The turnips were a bonus. I nearly forgot I had planted them until I stumbled over them while hunting for carrots. Ah, that tasty spicy potato wannabe, the turnip.

Mutant Radishes

I have no idea why my radishes went mutant. If you cut one open, it is pithy at best and hollow in the bigger ones. Odd. Just odd.

Trio of Potatoes

It was our first year to try potatoes. We got more than expected and that gives us good encouragement to plant more next year.

Dill (Yellow Flowers) and Cilantro (White Flowers)

The dill and cilantro did so well with very little encouragement from me. Now my guest room smells incredible due to these drying herbs.

Carrot Triumvirate

For carrots, we planted three kinds – orange, lighter orange, and red orange.

The Mystery Plant

Just for your amusement, and potentially my education, is a mystery plant. Perhaps a cabbage of some kind, but it’s on this 2.5 foot stalk. It made these cool flowers. Any ideas?

The Flowers of The Mystery Plant

And what do we do with all the left overs of our quarter-acre garden at Round Table Farms? Well, we let the chickens, goats, and donkeys have a turn at browsing and enriching the soil. We don’t use fertilizers and pesticides here. It’s all natural, for real. Not like the “All Natural” label on my mayonaise jar.

Goats Chilling in the Garden


So, an aebelskiver is a Danish donut. My awesome cousin made these, with bacon and coffee. Mmmm.

All you kitchen gizmo geeks: If you can find a multi-aebelskiver pan, please let me know.