Our Mission:

Our Mission: To enable individuals and communities to take an active part in the cultivation of systems that provide the highest quality fruits, vegetables, herbs and other yields, in a way that benefits themselves, cares for the land and environment, and provides a surplus to use, share and reinvest into the system.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Jack's day is done, now what?

It's over... 
King Jack's reign on the front stoop was grand! 
He watched the leaves change to red and gold, but now they have fallen. 
He watched the trick-or-treaters come and laugh, but they now are gone, too. 
He gained an hour (really?) but now the evening comes sooner.

Who am I talking about? 
You know... Jack. 
Jack O'Lantern!

According to the Department of Energy, 1.3 Billion pumpkins are grown in the US each year.  Millions of pounds of these will soon be headed for the landfills.  They have been painted or carved into Jack O'Lanterns for holiday decorations and will end up in the municipal waste stream.

What can we do to prevent contributing to this problem?
If you live in the panhandle of Oklahoma or Vero Beach, Florida your pumpkins, and other trash, might end up in a biorefinery.


Unfortunately most of us don't live there, so what do we do?

Lucky enough to have pigs, or chickens?  They make great snacks for them, tasty and nutritious.  You will need to break them up a bit for chickens so they can get to the inside.

No pigs or chickens? They can also be composted, and will break down faster if broken or chopped into smaller pieces.

Hopefully if you carved Jack O'Lanterns, you roasted the seeds and composted the rest of the insides.

We can eat them too, and not just the seeds! 
Pumpkin flavored everything can be found anywhere you look.  Cookies, coffees and more...  and don't forget pie!

Skip the canned stuff and you'll be rewarded with a flavorful homemade version.  Make your own pumpkin puree with this recipe from the Clever Carrot.

If you opted to paint them this year or left them as plain decorations, they'll probably be ok yet for cooking, if they haven't gone through too many freeze/thaw cycles.  Don't forget to take the paint off!

Then once you have your puree (or if you carved a jack o'lantern and bought some) try some of these Pumpkin Recipes from Eating Well and Taste of Home.

For your own Pumpkin Spice mix try this recipe:
Pumpkin Spice-
  • 4 parts cinnamon
  • 2 parts ginger
  • 1 part nutmeg
  • 1 part allspice
 
As a BONUS Treat, not Trick, the Sustainable Small Farm Online Summit is FREE (replay) until 9pm Central November 1st.


Have a great week!


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Get Dirty! ...and happy, and healthy!!!

This week I want to encourage you to get dirty! 

It's a perfect time to layout new garden beds for next season.  You can go through the work of double digging them in amended with compost, but that can be a LOT of work and disturbs the beneficial fungal network that may already be there.  If root crops can wait a year, lasagna beds take a lot of the work out of it, and provide the microbes plenty of food to build up a great soil.

Lasangna Bed Recipe (you can vary the ingredients based on available materials)
  1. Spread a thin layer of compost or fruit/vegetable waste.  This will attract earthworms as it decomposes.
  2. Layer cardboard or several layers of newspaper (non-glossy).  This will act as a biodegradable weed barrier.
  3. A layer of grass clippings can provide nitrogen
  4. A leafy layer will provide additional organic matter
  5. Cover with compost, which will kick-start the microbial activity
  6. Finish with mulch which will protect the layers below
  7. By Spring your new garden will be ready to plant

Speaking of soil life-
Soil contains microbes that can make us happy!  Mycobacterium vaccae, a strain of bacteria found in soil, has been found to trigger a release of serotonin a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of well-being, happiness and decreased anxiety.  This soil bacteria is also being looked at for cancer treatment, Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis therapy.


The "hygiene hypothesis" is also gaining traction in the scientific community.  Evidence is growing that supports exposure to dust and microbes, as opposed to a super sanitary environment, as a young child can reduce the chance for allergies and asthma as they grow.  In one study kids from livestock farms had nearly half the chance of having allergic reactions to common allergens; dust mites, mold and pollen.

Grounding or Earthing-
Grounding or Earthing refers to the practice of connecting to the earth without anything between a person's skin.  This can be done by walking around on dirt barefoot, or lying down on the ground.  The belief is that in our modern world of thick soled shoes, floors and concrete sidewalks our bodies are no longer benefitting from the electron flow to and from the earth.  Grounding/Earthing may be a simple, natural, and yet effective environmental strategy against many common health disorders, and an essential element in the health equation.
There are commercial furniture, mattresses and other devices that claim to reconnect with this energy, but if you can walk around your garden barefoot, or lie on the grass in a warm sunny spot, I think I'll save my money.

So get outside, get dirty, happy and healthy and enjoy your week!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Pumpkin Contest

What a perfect Fall weekend we just had! Cool nights and sunny days. The leaves took a beating in the wind but the colors are still astounding!

Speaking of leaves there will be plenty to collect for mulching or composting.

It was also the ideal weekend for planting garlic and flower bulbs, with soil temps getting into the 50's for most of the state.

We did get a pretty good frost across most of Iowa so if you were still getting tomatoes and wanting more I hope they were protected.

Maybe you even got a trip out to the pumpkin patch!

 
 This week we are doing a pumpkin contest!
 

Submit a photo of your handiwork to be entered for a chance to WIN! 
Post it on Abundant Design's Facebook page, attach it to the comments or email it to me.
Judging will take place next Saturday afternoon.

It can be painted or carved, silly or scary to compete.
  • Third prize will be a potted raspberry plant
  • Second place will receive choice of a Elderberry, Raspberry, Currant or Redbud tree planted in your yard*
  • First prize will be a FREE 1-hour On-Site Consultation*!
*Des Moines metro locations
 
 
Another fun thing to do this week is Valley Church's Great Pumpkin Party!  Always a big hit in the community, come check it out.
 
Have FUN & Good Luck with the contest! 
 


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Stovetop Popcorn: Easier Than You Think

Popcorn is a fun and healthy snack.  It has a satisfying crunch and has an impressive amount of fiber-over one gram of fiber per cup.  This is great for people watching their diet, as popcorn can fill you up without a lot of calories if you go easy on the extras.  Also, it's gluten-free if you need to avoid that.

Popcorn is a whole grain, which means it contains the germ, endosperm, and bran.  This is in contrast to refined grains, which retain only the endosperm.  Besides the fiber mentioned above, popcorn is a surprising source of antioxidants, including lutein, an antioxidant that is good for your eyes.  The antioxidants found in grains, polyphenols and phenolic acids, may even be easier to absorb into our bodies than anthocyanin antioxidants found in berries and other colorful foods.  Corn also has B-complex vitamins, magnesium and manganese.

Many people are trying to limit the use of the microwave.  ...or at least avoid prepackaged microwave popcorn.  This week, I'll show you how to prepare popcorn on the kitchen stove.

 

This technique works with purchased popcorn as well as your own homegrown varieties.

In addition to butter or more coconut oil and salt, sometimes we like to add nutritional yeast as an almost cheese-like topping.  For kettle corn try three tablespoons of sugar added along with the kernels.  If you are wanting a low calorie or fat-free snack, be mindful of the added extras.

Finally, if you must use a microwave, we have used 1/4 cup kernels in a brown lunch bag.  Fold the top over two or three times, microwave for ~2 minutes and it comes out just right.  It is nutrionaly similar to air-popped, which is low in fat.  (We just prefer the flavor and health benefits of coconut oil)

Now go pick out a movie to go with your popcorn and
   have a great week!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Casting call - Reality TV!

I can't believe I am suggesting a Reality TV Show...

But honestly, I have thought of trying out for the Amazing Race (especially after having so much fun in Urbandale's Amazing Race and the Des Moines 9 to 5 Adventure Race) or even Survivor (but that was before I had seen an episode...) 

Although it's rare for me to watch TV, even good stuff like Growing a Greener World, this one has potential to be GREAT if it is done well, and after talking to the folks there and browsing their website it could be educational and even culture changing for good.  So...

Do you want to help save the world & be on TV!

  • Are you a young American between the ages of 21 and 30ish?
  • Do you live with your parents or would you consider moving back in with them?
  • Do you want to try to convert your parents’ lawn (and neighborhood greenspaces) into a workable yardfarm–one that can sustain you and your family either nutritionally or financially or both?
  • Do you want some guy with a camera following you around while you try to do this for nine months?!?

If you said yes to all those questions, then you should apply to be on Yardfarmers! Yardfarmers is an upcoming reality TV show that’ll follow six young Americans as they attempt to make a livelihood out of growing food in their parents’ yards, their neighbors’ yards, random street flower boxes, churchyards, school yards, vacant lots, cemeteries, or whatever spaces you can find that can be converted from useless ornamental lawn into a new source of healthy, local and sustainable food. In the process, they’ll be helping to combat climate change, the obesity epidemic, factory farming, suburban sprawl, food deserts, and get their family, community, and country ready for a warmer, more turbulent future. All while competing for the honor of being crowned “America’s Best Yardfarmer,” and, of course, a substantial cash prize.

What could be a more fun way to spend 2016? To learn more about the show and to apply, check out Yardfarmers’ call for contestants. Apply soon as this is a rolling application and will close once we choose our first crop of yardfarmers!


IheartYardfarming-MDolly-square-text

Technically the casting call is closed, and the odds of selection at this stage are much lower. However, after talking with them, I found out that they have had very few candidates from the Mid-West. 

So, if you apply quickly, and are a very strong fit, they will still consider you!

I would LOVE for one of YOU to be chosen for this adventure!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sprinkle, Slice, Simmer, SNAP!

Although I'm not a big snacker, tortilla chips and salsa are one of my favorites.  If I want to crank it up a notch, I'll add some melted nacho cheese and some jalapeƱo rings.  Just like at the ball-game!



This week I put together a how-to video on canning pickled pepper rings.  With the growing season winding down, its good to prepare the garden surpluses we have been getting into storable versions to last until next year.


Anyone who makes them probably has their own recipe, or is tweaking one.  This is my version so far.
     Pepper Rings (makes 4-5 pints)
          ~3 pounds jalapeno and/or banana peppers
          5 cups cider or white vinegar (5%)
          1¼ cup water
          1 tablespoon honey or sugar
          1½ tablespoon canning salt
          1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
          1 tablespoon celery seed
          1 tablespoon coriander
          3 garlic cloves, crushed


Here's another recipe-
http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_06/yellow_pepper_rings.html

Here are some refrigerator versions that do not need to be canned, although have shorter storage life.
http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/pickled-peppers
Video - http://allrecipes.com/video/548/quick-pickled-jalapeno-rings/


Before starting your peppers or other water bath canning read:
http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga/using_bw_canners.html

The National Center for Home Food Preservation also has an e-book on the basics of canning in downloadable .pdf format:
http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/usda/GUIDE%201%20Home%20Can.pdf