Monday, February 13, 2012

Overly Challenged

If you been following along, you probably know I've been participating in the Dark Days Challenge since Dec, although I haven't exactly managed to post consistently every week. So of course when two new challenges, Independence Days and The Urban Farm Handbook Challenge came along I thought what the heck- might as well flail at 3 of them!

Independence Days is not actually a new challenge; Sharon Astyk over at The Chatelaine's Keys created it a few years ago as a method of acknowledging accomplishments, even the minor ones and tracking your progress towards a more sustainable lifestyle. She recently kicked off a new round with eight categories to report on weekly:
Grow something
Harvest something
Preserve something
Waste not
Want not
Eat the food
Build community food systems
and the newest category, Skill up!
More details and where to post your links are here. Post days for this challenge are Fridays and began last week so I'm already late to the party, go figure!

The Urban Farm Handbook Challenge, Twelve steps to Farmlette is the brain child of the folks at Sustainable Eats, Annette Cottrell and Joshua McNichols to coincide with their book of the same name. These are a series of monthly challenges, kicking off with February: Soil Building. Other topics include Home Dairy, Foraging and other things dear to my heart.I'm pretty sure I can handle posting monthly and I love the idea of having a 'farmlette' (Maybe I should change my blog name if I complete all twelve months?)

So in order to streamline all three I give you my combined Dark-Independence-Twelve-Step post.

Grow something: I dug out my sprouting jar last week and now I have a mess of alfalfa, red clover, mustard and green lentil sprouts ready to go. I like to add them to a slaw of grated beets and cabbage. So nice to have something freshly grown in the dead of winter.

Harvest Something: Would you believe I'm still picking fresh herbs from the back deck? Well if you are experiencing the same non-winter we are, I'm sure you do My sage has survived a couple of deep freezes and snowfalls and is still fresh and pungent!

Preserve something: It was actually a couple of weeks ago now but Colette and I made some Cold Soother Jelly using Meyer lemons, limes and local honey. I've already consumed one jar and I know this recipe is a keeper! I also have a new batch of chicken stock in the fridge waiting to be pressure canned.

Waste not: I had a large jar of whey leftover from my first round of cheesemaking and I've been using it in everything from soup to crepes. Yummy! I also reconfigured my worm composter to a larger bin with a removable screen to allow the worms to move upwards into fresh food and bedding. This makes it easier to remove the nutrient rich worm poop that I'm adding to my indoor plants and will be adding to my garden as soon the ground thaws. I'm making use of the giant vermiculture system at work as well and will be bringing home buckets of worm compost to add more nutrients to my soil. No need to truck home city leaf compost this year!

Want Not: Many of the small green grocers in our neighbourhood sell off less that perfect produce in $1 baskets. I picked up a bunch of mixed onions at one location and a basket of button and shitaake mushrooms at another. For the onions I peeled the worst of them, diced them and roasted them in the oven with a bit of butter for use in soups, stews etc. The remainder we'll eat fresh. The mushrooms I'll treat similarly and some will get used in a batch of mushroom soup using some of the chicken stock and whey.

Eat the food: My most recent Dark Days meal made use of frozen homemade pumpkin gnocchi I made last fall (from fresh pumpkin, and Red Fife wheat flour), with sauteed local mushrooms, garlic and onions, whole tomatoes canned last summer and fresh sage. I topped it with my homemade feta and although it wasn't the prettiest looking dish, it was a delicious memory of last summer's garden.

Build Community Food Systems: This is one area that I have an unfair advantage. My current job as a Community Food Animator at FoodShare is all about creating and building community food systems and I'm in the midst of working on a number of different projects, including 5 upcoming Seedy Saturdays in the GTA!

Skill up: I'm feeling pretty accomplished at my new skill sets; my bacon turned out great, and I'm working on my second batch of raw milk cheese as I type this (mozzarella this time)!

So it seems three challenges may be easier than one, at least when it comes to posting about them!


  1. Wow, those are some incredibly ambitious winter projects, good for you!

    I've just started sprouting this week and it seems that little bit of green has really brightened up our eating. It's also ignited that, "I made/grew that" fire inside again which is great. Like when you bake bread, I swear, it makes you feel good all day.

    Great post!

  2. Bread is one I have yet to attempt but I do love that feeling of eating something I've made from scratch. I saw your tutorial on pea sprouts and am all excited to try that out! I crave greens this time of year ( don't we all?) and one of my favourite dishes is snow pea leaves in garlic. The pictures of those spouting peas made me drool- where do you get the sprouting peas varieties?

    1. Mums Sprouting Seeds from Saskatchewan. They have a few varieties but my favourite is the Dwarf Grey Sugar peas.


  3. What a great write up, loved! reading it, I so like the idea of being able to track your little things that all add up into big things..

    Congrats on the weight loss as well, and loved the sound of your mushroom soup.

    5 seedy saturdays! Wow, is that because of distance because we only have one in ottawa that I know of, and its such a long drive, I wish that there was closer, but have not found any yet.

  4. Dropping by from the UFHC to say hi and check out your February challenge. Looks like joining multiple challenges was just the push you needed to share your adventures.