November 2011 Archives

Next year is already shaping up to be a really exciting time. My teaching schedule is full of great, interesting classes that I hope many of you aspiring urban agrarians out there will find hard to resist.

I teach the occasional workshop at the "homestead" as many of you probably know, but I also teach frequently at two great institutions in NYC; 3rd Ward and The New York Botanical Gardens. Please see below for dates and times and check out their websites to enroll!


At 3rd Ward:

Food Preservation and Canning
-Mon, Dec 12th, 7-10 p.m.
-Thurs, Jan 12th, 7-10 p.m.
-Tues, Feb 28th, 7-10 p.m.

Urban Food Production for the Landless
-Thurs, Dec 15th, 7-10 p.m.
-Sun, Dec 18th, 6-9 p.m.
-Tues, Jan 17th, 7-10 p.m.
-Sat, Feb 11th, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

City Chickens for Fresh Eggs
-Tues, Jan 24th, 7-10 p.m.

Rooftop Beekeeping 101
Sun, Feb 19th and 26th, 10 a.m.- 1 p.m.

New York Botanical Gardens
(see NYBG link above for details)

Vegetable Gardening Certificate Course
-Wed, Feb 22-Mar 14 (4 sessions), 6:15pm-9:15pm
-Mon, Mar 26-31 (4 sessions), 10 a.m.-1.p.m.

Beekeeping for Bee-ginners
-Sat, March 17th-31st (3 sessions), 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Rooftop Beekeeping Basics
-Thurs, April 12th-26th (3 sessions), 6-9 p.m. (Manhattan)

Swarm Catching for Free Bees
-Tues, May 1st, 6-9 p.m.

**Please note: The January EDIBLE MUSHROOM GROWING CLASS at my place will take place on Sunday the 12th. I'll post about it next week with a link to an Eventbrite page. Mark your calendars! **

A whirlwind update.

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Good morning, friends!

--Tickets for my DIY Holiday Gift Making Class are selling out! It's this Sunday (Dec 4th) from 1-3 and it's gonna be SUPER FUN! Get tickets before they are gone. We'll be making delectable treats like spiced clementine marmalade and bacon pecan brittle!

turkeyFAIL.JPG FarmThanks.JPG FarmThanks2.JPG

--I nearly ruined Thanksgiving when I desiccated our lovely turkey because the oven at Newton Farm runs REALLY hot. It made pretty killer turkey and cranberry bean soup though, and at least the table was pretty!


--The kits have opened their eyes to the world!

--I brought a load of frost-kissed greens back from the farm and I'll be blanching and freezing them today. Greens are at their best this time of year so buy a little extra at the farm stand and put em up so that you can enjoy their outstanding flavor all winter long!

--I spent all day yesterday on my roof playing with bees and talking about bees for a new commercial that will be airing on national teevee in the new year. I got stung in the arm but the bees were otherwise looking really good with lots of dark honey stored for the winter!

That's about all that's going on in my world right now. Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and you all are enjoying the tastiest leftovers! I know I am!


What the heck--have another!


Baby Bunny Update (Video)!

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Last week for Bread Challenge I opted to satiate my sweet tooth and use up some apples and bananas that were starting to go by with this recipe for Vegan Apple Bread.

I made a few modifications, as listed below. The result was a spongey, moist quickbread that even the most dairy-addicted palette would enjoy (and likely go back for seconds of).


Vegan Spiced Apple Bread--modified from
(makes about 2 loaves)

1 cup oil of your choice (light olive and coconut oil are my favorite)
1 mashed banana
2 cups apples, chopped into 1/4 inch sized bits
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ground flax seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup hazeluts or walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and lightly grease two bread pans.

Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

In a smaller bowl, mix the mashed banana, oil, and vanilla.

Incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ones. Once a smooth consistency is reached, fold in the chopped apples and nuts and distribute evenly into the greased loaf pans.

Place in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when pushed into the center.


I took a few small loaves of this bread to BK Swappers (a bi-monthly food swap that my friend Jane Lerner and I organize) last night and I fared pretty well with them. I got a nice little haul of edible goodies to bring home with me.



(Preserved lemons, cayenne and garlic hotsauce, salted butter caramel sauce, cognac duck confit and a jar of boozy hard cider in exchange for some loaves of bread!)

It was quite a time. If you want to hear more about what other swappers took home, follow the conversation on Twitter via @BKSwappers/ #BKSwappers and be sure to sign up for our next swap in January once a date is set!


Join me at Jewel Street Paradise on Sunday, 12/4 from 1-3 p.m. for an afternoon of holiday gift making. In this class attendees will be shown the some updated classic candy recipes (think brittles, barks and fudge), holiday inspired jam making, and boozey infusions. You'll also learn how to make amazing themed gift baskets without spending a lot of money.

In this class we will be making:

-Hickory-smoked bacon and pecan brittle
-Spiced clementine marmalade
-Coffee and vanilla infused rum
-"Crack" bark.
-Eggnog popcorn balls

We'll also discuss options for packaging so that your gifts look amazing when presented.

The class will last about 2 hours, drinks and snacks will be made available and students will leave with samples of their work to inspire them at home! The cost is $25.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or reserve your ticket on Eventbrite.

My Sunday

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I woke this morning feeling pretty hazy and sick to my stomach. I wish I had the day to relax and take care of myself before the holidays (Neil and I are hosting Thanksgiving at Newton Farm for our families), but I've got a full day of teaching and food swapping ahead of me.

I fed all of the critters in spite of my raggedy condition. The chickens are fat and happy and have slowed their egg-laying significantly. They just finished up their second full season so I'm thinking it may be time to introduce some new layers to the flock this spring and extend the run into the compost pile.

The rabbits all seem content. Salad and her seven kits are well. Sally is a great mom and I'm shocked by how quickly her babies are growing. The reality of what's to come is starting to sink in, especially knowing that Hazel is likely going to have a litter of her own in a couple of weeks. It'll be a bunny bonanza here at Jewel Street. I can't wait until their eyes open and they start exploring their new world.

(Salad and her offspring)

So, I'm about to jet off to my class and thought a check in would be appropriate. I've got a vegan spiced apple bread recipe coming up tomorrow for #breadchallenge. It turned out great. I've decided to just throw out the last recipe and start from scratch. No sense in making things hard for myself, you know?

It's a Litter!

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Wow, I am in a state of shock at the moment.

This morning I went downstairs to feed the rabbits and found that sweet little Salad, my standard Chinchilla doe, had given birth to 7 kits! She barely had any contact with Ghost at all, but he is a stealthy guy it seems and here we are. She showed literally no signs that this was coming. Last night, there was no strange behavior or nesting. This morning there was fluff and a nest in the hay. I never even got a nesting box in there!

momsalad.JPG (Salad tending to her nest. The kits are buried under the tufts of fur she removed from her underbelly)

Salad is eating like a horse. I've given her a larger food crock and plenty of hay and leafy greens. It's hard to say how this will turn out, since first litters have a high rejection rate. We'll just have to wait and see. I'm going to have to make a nesting box. Two actually, as I'm pretty sure Hazel is right behind her. She's had more contact with Ghost and more recently.


This is the first time we've ever had a birth at Jewel Street Paradise! It feels a little bit more like a real farm. Our little shared home has now seen birth, death and everything in-between!

First #BreadChallenge= A Bust!

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This past week, for #BreadChallenge, I decided to make a loaf of simple oat bread. I looked around for recipes that lacked the fussiness that some bread recipes seem to impart. I had a busy weekend of bottling beers, yard work, class prep and teaching so I knew I wouldn't be able to give the task the attention it deserved.

I settled on THIS oversimplified recipe. It didn't turn out so good. I know where the problem started.

The recipe doesn't require that you proof the yeast. I don't have any bread starter or poolish yet (I plan to make some this week) so I used dry yeast as the recipe called for and got very little rise. It also just suggests that you combine all of the ingredients (as opposed to dry with dry, wet with wet and then combine), which I think is a sloppy and lazy way to do things.


The end result was a very dense, cakey, doughy lump that tasted just fine but texturally was really unappealing. In the chicken bucket it goes! I wish I could say I am disappointed, but I'm not. I like learning and this was certainly an education in assessing a recipe beforehand. My advice to new bakers is to opt for more detailed recipes when possible. Don't be lured in by 5-step bread-making. There are nuances to making bread and if you don't understand them, rely on a detailed recipe to help guide you through each seemingly tedious step. Even the little details make a huge difference in baking.


So, this week I am going to try to improve on this bread. I like the challenge of taking a bad recipe and turning it into a reliable one. Instead of dry yeast, I will make poolish and use that to try and get a rise out of the dough. I think that one little tweak might be enough to salvage it. We'll see! The proof is in the poolish.

How's everyone else's bread baking coming along?

Enjoying some Sweeney's Men while I bake a peasant loaf for #breadchallenge.

Have a listen and stay tuned for a bread post!


You'll hear me repeat this every so often, but here it goes again: I'm cheap. Mostly out of necessity because it's so darned expensive to live in NYC and if you aren't careful about spending you could end up broke as a joke. Even things like groceries, which most folks who dine out frequently opt to buy as a way to save money, are vastly more expensive here than in other places. Oftentimes it can be cheaper to eat low-quality takeout than cooking homemade meals. Obviously, that is not a habit that interests me. Practicing frugality in the city is a learning process and I want to get as close to perfecting it as I can.

One of the first two rules I've learned in regards to feeding yourself on the cheaps are as follows:

1. Buy staples such as dry goods (flour, beans, grains) in large quantities and store them in airtight containers in the pantry.

2. Bake instead of buying. I.e. bread, cereal, cookies etc. They taste better homemade, can be better for you (fewer or no additives and preservatives) and are less expensive because most of the time you'll have the materials on hand to whip any of them up on a whim.

**So with that in mind I decided that this fall/winter I'd challenge myself to bake a minimum of one loaf of bread a week. **


The rules for this winter long challenge are as follows:

-Once a week I will make a loaf of bread.

-I will post the recipe and any modifications I may have made.

-I will share pictures or video of said bread. (Rhyming is fun.)

-I will eat and enjoy the bread and do solemnly swear to not waste any of it. I'll find creative ways to use the stale bits (if there are any) before offering them to the chickens or worms.

I encourage any of my readers/bloggy friends to do the same and post about their experiences. If you don't have a blog, tweet about it using the hashtag #breadchallenge.

First post coming later this week!


A Weekend in the Catskills

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Happy Monday, folks!

I'm back in Brooklyn after I took a much needed trip to the Catskills this weekend... Neil and I snapped a few pics of the times. It was the first time I was able to go up to the farm and just enjoy being there by the wood stove eating and reading with no pressure to do field work. The frost has killed off all but the hardiest brassicas so there was only light work to be done anyway.

Here are some I took with Instagram, though Neil and my friend Tom have more integrity and took some with a real camera. I'll share those once the film (yes, film) is developed.

(Mulching rows of garlic on Newton Farm)

farmbeesFALL.JPG (Winterizing the farm bees, part 1)

neilfirewood.JPG (My handsome boyfriend, post firewood stacking.)

cooperfarm.JPG (My friends Tom & Kira picking some collards with Cooper, the best dog in the whole world.)

porkshoulder.JPG (We ate well: Apple cider braised pork shoulder with pan jus, black-eyed peas, collards and bacon, pan roasted root veggies. We made a stew with the leftovers the next day)

Child Among the Weeds

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Sometimes a song just rips your heart out...

In this case it was a song and a voice. Bob Davenport's role in this song is no small one.

Last night, after inviting a friend over for a chicken and biscuit supper and scary movies, I gave him a tour of "the farm". As we walked I articulated the use of each critter living at Jewel Street Paradise. It occurred to me then, that I had a pretty significant composting operation going now. I'm proud to say that not much food goes in the trash at my house anymore...and here is why.



The hens do a great job of gobbling up any of the food scraps that they are able to peck apart. Cooked pasta or rice, leafy greens, old bread, stale popcorn, leftover fish, egg shells and corn cobs are all completely consumed happily by them. I've even gone as far as to give them leftover hotdog buns from our many barbeques. The end result is a darn tasty egg and LOTS of high nitrogen manure!

Downside is that they can't eat harder vegetable matter, as it cannot be picked apart easily, so that has to go someplace else.

Compost Pile


For the past few years, We've been putting many of the food scraps that the hens don't eat into the compost pile. We layer our food waste with yard debris and bedding from the chicken coop, watering and turning it regularly. We occasionally add spent grain that has fermented too much for the hens to eat. This really kicks the decomp process into overdrive. Right now, there are LOADS of worms at work, breaking down the food that fungi and bacteria have made available to them and creating an amazing soil conditioner that we will be able to add to our raised beds in the spring.

Vermicompost Bin


During the winter, I stop adding fodder to the compost pile. Low temperatures halt the decomposition process and any items added to the top will likely just sit there, frozen. Turning the pile in the winter can kill the critters that are keeping warm at the center of the pile. So I just pile lots of leaves and yard debris on top and let the center of the pile keep cooking. To pick up the slack I've been using a worm bin that was given to me by my lovely friend Liz Neves I add about a lb of compost every two days and they are just about ready to be put into a larger bin. I've added castings to house plants and sprinkled some into the furrows where I planted garlic this weekend and I feel optimistic that doing so will result in very happy plants. Worm castings are highly valued compost. I am very fortunate to have my own wriggly friends to help with added composting.



The most recent addition to the operation are our breeding trio of rabbits. I've not started breeding them yet, but they've been tremendously useful producers of manure. In addition to their organic formulated feed, they are given a daily ration of coarse vegetable matter....usually whatever the chickens won't eat (carrot ends, sweet potato, collard and kale ribs, celery scraps). Every few days I scrape the drop trays into resting garden beds or into the main compost pile. I've been piling manure and straw around the raspberry bushes this fall in the hopes that it gives them a boost in the spring, resulting in more growth, and more berries. As soon as the ground thaws, I'll turn the manure and straw in and get planting!

I realize that I am very fortunate to be able to have all of these great ways to minimize what I send to the landfill but people with no outdoor space can keep a series of worm bins in a closet and donate unspoiled food scraps to a local community garden for composting or livestock feed. Don't let limitations get in your way! Get composting any way you can!

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from November 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

October 2011 is the previous archive.

December 2011 is the next archive.

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