Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Musings

Right now...it is almost 11am. The girls have been here for a few hours, and are busily working on lessons while they alternate between singing and shushing each other.

This weekend was... filled with tragedy and amazingness.

Sunday first. After Mass, we spent the day with my in-laws. Scrabble was played, and my mother-in-law crushed us. She is a Scrabble mastermind. But thankfully, after dinner we played Pinochle, and my husband and I totally dominated, redeeming ourselves a bit.

The sad news was that the now notorious "Tyson" (see Friday's vlog if you haven't already) got into the hospital pens where we were nursing some pecked chickens. Every one of the 10 sick chickens were gone. After hours of searching, my husband found 9 of them in the area (and several eggs, too, bless their terrorized little chicken hearts), but one of them died this morning and another has not been found.

I'm about ready to be done with the whole chicken business, as it's brought so much heartache, but my dedicated husband is in it for the long haul.


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On Saturday after an amazing Confession to a visiting Holy Spirit filled Dominican priest, I had a surprise date night with my husband.

"I could make pizza." "Or we could order it." Score!! Freedom from cooking and dishes for an evening!

Then we went to a movie. The last dozen or two movies we've seen in the theater have been animated. In our quest for non-offensive entertainment, we've been limited to such thought-provoking cinematic wonders as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Bolt, and Tangled. "Cute," perhaps, but utterly forgettable.

On the recommendation of a blogger I trust, I suggested "The King's Speech" for our date night (hey, it was that or Chronicles of Narnia, again). The R rating was rather a huge obstacle for me, considering the only other R rated movie I've seen is the Passion... but it was rated so only for two brief scenes of profanity, so we went.

I'm going to have to see it again to make sure (because I don't lightly praise movies; only the highest quality films make it past my discriminating taste), but I think I can safely rank it amongst the top 5 greatest films of the decade. It is truly a great film. For lovers of A&E's Pride and Prejudice, it stars Darcy (Colin Firth), and Lizzie (Jennifer Ehle) and Mr. Collins (David Bamber) also make appearances.

The movie is utterly applicable to anyone who has been entrusted with a task of which they think themselves incapable or underqualified. Anyone who has a cross to bear and overcome (uum... everybody?) can identify and find a worthy hero in this film. His anguish is real, his fear is great, his cross is heavy. I was rooting for him the whole time, because I could feel myself, in so many ways, to be him. Insecurities, fears, inadequacy, but ultimately grace.

The acting was unparalleled... with the notable exception of Helena Bonham Carter who plays his wife. To me, she comes across as regal, to be sure, but cold and unconvincing as a wife. She doesn't have the air of a woman in love, and though she does all of the right things (supporting, counseling, listening, consoling, being a tireless advocate), she lacks a gentleness in her eyes, and the warmth and tenderness of a truly devoted wife. I wish Jennifer Ehle could've played her character, as she was much softer and more feminine.

Anyway, the language for which it was rated R was, in my opinion, integral to the story and thoroughly unoffensive. Yes, the worst words in the English language are used in rapid succession, but they are not used vulgarly, they are not directed at anyone, and they lack the crude intent which makes the combination of letters so objectionable to begin with.

I would pay to watch this movie again. And I would recommend it most highly to all adults. Yes, even my parents. Although the language is not offensive or vulgar to a mature adult, I would obviously not recommend this to (most) teenagers nor families with small and impressionable children.

Some plans for this week:  Go to the parish mission each night. Go to Mass each morning.

If I have some time to myself, I want to... make some little items for my newborn niece who is soon to be my godbaby.

Prayer intentions for this week: for my baby nephew, whose life is very much in danger right now (he's on a necessary medication that completely wipes out his immune system, and he just caught a cold). Dear Lord, protect him and strengthen his family!

Something that makes me smile: The knowledge that great films (with lasting permanence and intrinsic value) are still being made. And that I have the perfect husband to enjoy them with.

Monday Musings are hosted at Patch O' Dirt Farm.

Friday, January 28, 2011

First Vlog: Chicken Launch Party!

So I've been holding out all week to write all about the chicken launch party we had last Saturday.

Oh, the drama!!

It was very intense, actually. A lot went wrong (as you'll see), but eventually it smoothed out and the chickens are happily clucking away in their spacious new place, crankin' out a dozen and a half eggs a day. It's wonderful.

So if you want to see what happened last Saturday, please watch my first ever Vlog below.

Note: I recommend viewing this video in higher resolution if your internet speed will allow it. After clicking play, in the gray toolbar on the bottom of the video, change "360p" to either "480p" or "720p." 


Be sure to head over to my new channel on YouTube and subscribe for future videos.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Small Successes: Chicken Edition

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1. I made three pounds of ground beef jerky last night in my new dehydrator. It was a failure in that I slept through the alarm that told me when to shut off the dehydrator. Can you say... beef sawdust? But the success was that it was my first use of the Excalibur, and gives me hope and confidence for future endeavors! (And my husband claims to like to the crunchy concoction, so all is not lost).

2. The chickens are free!! Well, they're not exactly free-ranging it, but with the coyote population around here, it's a darned good thing for them that they're not. They're in their spacious new husband-built movable chicken pen, eating fresh grass each day and turning out eggs like little clucking factories.

3. Speaking of chickens, I stretched the leftover chicken wings out for three lunches. Could I have eaten them in one sitting? Most definitely. Did I? No. That's self-restraint of epic proportions right there, y'all.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Our Love Story, Part XIV

To catch up on Parts 1-13, click here.

If I do say so myself, I looked pretty radiant at the dance. Sparkly hunter green dress, black shrug and heels, sparkling eyes, curly hair, and the glow of a woman in love (or serious like).

I quickly learned that "semi-formal" in this part of the world, however, means an ironed collared shirt and clean bluejeans. I was massively overdressed, but honestly I didn't care, because Mr. Amazing was looking sharp.

"If he'd just stand next to me," I thought, "we would be such a handsome couple!"

The dance started around 6:30 and my lessons had paid off -- I floated around the room with the beat. I danced literally every dance for two hours, with half a dozen or more different partners. But the so-called "Mr. Amazing" had danced only with his sisters and sat out the rest, talking with various wallflowers.

After two hours, I'd had quite enough of attempting to garner the attention of a certain best friend's brother, and I retreated, exhausted, to the chip and soda table.

Mr. Amazing was nowhere to be seen, and at this point I was past caring. This evening was supposed to have been dynamite; the night I'd been waiting for since Meg's wedding, a year before. But I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that it was going to end just like the other occasion -- with no request to dance and possibly even a snub.

As I stood there, daintily sipping my punch, a handsome young eligible approached. He started some small talk, and I was happy to pass the time with some company (and... yes... perhaps make Mr. Amazing a little jealous). The music was not particularly loud, but this guy started leaning in to talk. I backed up a step. He took a step forward. I limbo-leaned backwards each time he invaded my personal bubble, and he limbo leaned forward.

Hm.

Imagine my surprise and delight when up to us strode Mr. Amazing, standing a full head above this other guy. He joined the conversation, but Cowboy Joe kept inching closer and closer.

I gave a sidelong glance to Mr. Amazing and he had the most amused look on his face as he watched the shenanigans. I cast him a furtive pleading look, he gave a stern glare to my leaning interlocutor, and out of nowhere he grabbed my wrist firmly in his massive hand.

"Alright" he said, commandingly and with a firm purpose, "it's about time! Let's dance."

He never asked me, he just grabbed me and led me onto the dance floor!

I wasn't sure whether to be ecstatic or annoyed!! I'd practiced so many times in my head that night how I would accept him when he asked (and, as the evening dragged on, how I'd reject him) and he'd STOLEN this dance!

But there we were, on the dance floor.

He and I.

Us.

"This is it!" I thought. "This is the turning point! At last!!" 

I waited for the music to start without breathing as my heart pounded in my throat. One of his hands firmly engulfed mine, and the other was placed lightly but strongly on my waist. I hesitantly raised my hand and placed it, barely resting upon his powerful shoulder.

I avoided eye contact, and tried furiously not to blush.

Then the music started.

It echoed, familiarly, in my ears for a few seconds, before I realized which song it was. Then my face fell in anguish and I said, hurriedly and brusquely, "Sorry, I don't dance to this one," and ran quickly off the floor.

It was the MACARENA!!!

To be continued...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Three Easy Super Bowl Wings Recipes

Tasty Tuesday
Grab the button here and come join us, or just link to another site with a recipe you're going to try... or post a recipe in the comments! 

We don't have a TV.

For about 359* days of the year, I really don't care. In fact, I'm glad we don't have one; it saves us hours of mindless (and perhaps offensive) entertainment, encourages us to converse and pursue hobbies, and saves us a monthly cable bill. 

But I do miss TV for the Triple Crown of horse racing. My dad used to be a racehorse trainer, so we take the Derby very seriously in my family.

I miss it at Christmastime when they play It's A Wonderful Life. Yes I have it on DVD, but there are no commercial interruptions right after Mr. Potter does his dastardly deed! Where's the fun in that? You get a whole 90 seconds to mutter about what a mean awful man he is before returning to the action.

And I miss the MDA Telethon. Something about Jerry Lewis singing "You'll  Never Walk Alone" while the toteboard tallies up the new pledge total... okay, I'm weird.

And finally... Super Bowl Sunday. I tried to watch the Saints dominate last year on some illegal stream on a hacker's website. It worked, but I'm afraid my computer has never been the same, and I had a grimy feeling the whole time.

None of this is enough to convince us to buy a TV, but it does kind of smart on those six days a year. So to fight the no-tube blues, this year, I'm still going to make Super Bowl food while cheering for the Steelers. I did a little trial run this week for the Steelers/Jets game at my Aunt's house (to the tune of 10 pounds of wings), and the results were amazing.

The best part of all of them: they are oven baked, not fried. I love frying food, but when doing it in large quantities, it can get very tedious and very hot. The result is still breaded, crispy and delicious, but a lot easier.

All three recipes today come from Chef John of Foodwishes.com. His recipes are always awesome, but sometimes he's about PG rated, which I don't appreciate for recipes, so use caution when navigating there.

Sticky Spicy Orange Chicken Wings


Click here for the recipe.

My Notes: Definitely add some ginger, some garlic, and after you've coated the wings add some chopped green onions and toasted sesame seeds.

Spicy Sweet Honey Mustard Wings


Click here for the recipe.

My Notes: I used brown mustard instead of Dijon ('cause it's what I had) and they were still awesome!

Original Buffalo Wings Recipe


Click here for the recipe.

Notes: Absolute perfection. Pass the blue cheese dressing.

What have you made, lately?



*I also really miss the Olympics, but the mystique has been taken away in the last decade since they post the results online before the competitions even take place.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chickens, Wings, and Steelers

Right now...it is 11:38am. I'm about to head to Adoration for the noon hour.

This weekend was... beset with awfulness, but ended with wonderfulness. The chickens are free!! I actually videotaped their liberation and will try to piece together a little vlog for later this week. But just about everything that could go wrong at the launch party, did. That's okay, though, 'cause the chickens are fat and happy now in their new pad, and I have my garage back.


On Sunday, after early Mass (hey, 9am is early on a Sunday!) I made guacamole, ten pounds of chicken wings and four dozen taquitos for the Steelers/Jets game. It was loads of fun to be in the kitchen working on a grand scale project, again, and the spoils were pretty stinkin' delicious. I really don't give a hoot about football, but I have lots of ties to Pittsburgh, so Go Steelers!

Some plans for this week: Actually, I haven't made any plans for this week! My husband and I are implementing a new evening prayer routine (so far so amazing), so I hope to keep that going.

There is some idle chatter going around about building a little greenhouse, now that the coop is finished.

Oh yes, I never made that beef jerky last week, so that's on the agenda for sure.

If I have some time to myself, I want to... learn how to edit videos.

Prayer intentions for this week: in thanksgiving that the domestic chicken saga is now over. In gratitude for my husband, whose boundless love never ceases to amaze, humble, and woo me. And for our baby nephew who is taking some intense life-threatening but hopefully life-saving medication.

Something that makes me smile: the fact that my husband left me a bunch of leftover chicken wings for lunch. What a man!

Friday, January 21, 2011

On The Eve of Liberation

Sad sad news.

We're down to 25 chickens and a rooster.

Poor Clucky. On the eve of liberation (the great move to the chicken coop), one of our Rhode Island Red hens up and squawked her last squawk.

(This is not her. This is a public domain image of a Rhode Island Red hen. But she looked just like this.)

I don't know why she died, but her timing couldn't have been more tragic, nor more ironic. If she could've held out one more day, at least she would have known the bliss of a single day on a spacious grassy field. Alas, she's buried a few yards under it now.

R.I.P., Clucky.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Needles, Facades, and $$

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1. The Christmas tree needles are vacuumed up and are now a thing of the past. Our living room smells piney fresh, and I can walk around barefooted again.

2. My living room and kitchen are also spotless. Yes, I threw all of the clutter into the bedroom when unexpected company announced they were 4 minutes away, but I'm totally dominating the facade of togetherness right now.

3. We made our first $2 on chicken eggs!! Our neighbor requested a dozen after we gave her a dozen. At this rate, we should recoup our investment in about... 37 years (adjusted for inflation), but considering we didn't get the chickens to make money in the first place, this is pretty sweet!

Bonus 4th: I honed my fledgling Photoshop skillz and made a new background for my Twitter page, and a new profile image for Facebook. I'm rather pleased with both, actually.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bent Nails and Marriage

I can smell success in the air. I can also smell 26 chickens and 1 rooster confined to a space not quite large enough for them. Can you say... ammonia?

In about 48 hours, however, our chickens should be home free in their brand new spacious, outdoor, movable penthouse. Free to stretch out, eat grass, dig up bugs, breathe clean air, lay eggs in abundance, and squawk without my fearing a neighbor's call to the SPCA. But for now, they're still... er... enjoying their winter accommodations in our garage.

Yesterday, for about the dozenth time in this eight month saga of a construction project, I went on-site to "help" build the coop. I say "help" because the extent of my ambling assistance is holding boxes of nails, running to fetch tools and coffee, giving backseat driver advice, complaining about the temperature, and occasionally casting amorous glances at the master carpenter / general contractor. But when it comes to any real and valuable help as a carpenter, try as I might, I am a bumbling buffoon.

I broke an electric drill bit on my first plunge. I stripped the heads on both screws I tried to insert. I put the washer on the wrong side of the bolt. Even the simple task of hammering in a few tacks was completely un-learnable. I couldn't figure out if I really am a left or right-hander; the hammer felt equally awkward in both hands. Utter frustration!

My husband is a never-ending well of patience. "You just have to get comfortable. Here, try it again," he says calmly, as I bend yet another nail.

Before abandoning the project, my final tally of bent nails was 8. Straight nails? 1. No, it wasn't the last one... it was the first one... before I got cocky.

But the takeaway lesson from this humiliating show of my carpentry ineptitude was not shame, dejection, nor discouragement. Quite the contrary. What I brought to the table was a bright smile to lighten his day, loving hands to massage his shoulders, kind words to gladden his heart, and a boost to his masculinity with proof that he is absolutely needed to bring this project to completion.

Marriage is indescribably, outrageously, indubitably, undeniably, incredibly, unspeakably, amazingly the greatest, most beautiful and most wonderful gift ever. I love my life!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tasty Tuesday: Keepin' It Real

Tasty Tuesday
Grab the button here and come join us, or just link to another site with a recipe you're going to try... or post a recipe in the comments!
Well, as anyone who follows me on Facebook or Twitter knows, I had a pretty rotten day in the kitchen yesterday.

First I attempted to make whole wheat flour tortillas. ICK! They didn't puff up at all in the pan, and they ended up as crispy as crackers. I saved some of them to use as crackers, actually, but it was a definite kitchen fail.

Then I tried to make hummus. Cooks Illustrated (a.k.a. America's Test Kitchen) has never once failed me in all of the years I've made their recipes. But this one was a real loser AND a gigantic waste of roasted garlic! That was the real tragedy. I could down roasted garlic by the squishy caramely toe (actually that makes it sound kinda gross), but the roasted goodness got lost in the resulting paste that tasted like mealy peanut butter. Too much tahini! A kind reader posted a recipe on Facebook that I intend to try after I've finished making PBJ sandwiches out of this guck.

So life here in the Farmer's City Wife's kitchen is not all glory and roses. And it also leaves me without a photographed recipe for today's Tasty Tuesday post.

But all is not lost. I started some chicken stock last night that is looking glorious this morning, so we should have a great chicken soup tonight.

Please share some of your kitchen successes!

Monday, January 17, 2011

First Monday Musing of 2011

Right now... I'm sitting in the youth room at our parish, bumming some free WiFi and plotting the music for the youth Mass for the next two months. I'm also outrageously hungry, because I didn't eat lunch.

This weekend... I went to a big city! As much as I've grown to love living out in the country, I sometimes long for the excitement, hustle, bustle and culture of big cities. And traffic. Am I crazy? I miss traffic!! It restores my faith in humanity every time somebody lets me into his lane.

But I am glad to be home now. And Howard, our rooster, crowed a welcoming (or perhaps an "I'm hungry") crow when we pulled into the driveway.

Some plans for the week: I need to get my house back under control. Being out of town 3 of the last four weeks, it's kind of gone by the wayside. How does it manage to get cluttered when we're not even home?? The remnants of the Christmas tree needles, strategically wedged into the carpet for maximum stabbing capabilities, have got to go, too.

Also on the agenda: turning some of our outrageous quantities of frozen beef into beef jerky.

If I find some time for myself, I hope to... learn more about Wordpress. It fascinates me. I would also like to get in a trip or two to the park by the river for a nice long walk.

Special prayer intentions for the week: For my husband's aunt who shattered her wrist and is having surgery. For the music for this youth Mass to come together as yet another two people have dropped out. 

Something that makes me smile: the sun is shining again. And it's warm! And my husband is coming home in just two hours. Does life get any better? I submit that it does not.

Monday Musings are hosted at Patch O' Dirt Farm.

Friday, January 14, 2011

All About Dairy Kefir

For Christmas, my sister-in-law, Miriam, gave me some Dairy Kefir (or Milk Kefir) grains.

What the bazookie are Dairy Kefir Grains?

Well, Kefir Grains aren't really grain at all. They're live yeast and bacteria existing in a symbiotic relationship, used to ferment milk into a slightly sour fizzy pro-biotic drink (about the consistency of buttermilk, or a little thicker).

Purported Health Benefits of Dairy Kefir

Dairy Kefir can aid with digestion, limit the growth of pathogens in your body, boost your immune system, and help prevent cancer.

In addition, it's loaded with folic acid (a must for all women of gestating age),Vitamin K, phosphorous and biotin. (For more information, and footnotes to these claims, read more about it at Nourished Kitchen).

Is Dairy Kefir hard to make?

No! Unlike other cultured dairy products (uum... like yogurt) which require raising and lowering of temperatures, sustained incubating times, caution from yeast floating in the air, etc. etc.,  Dairy Kefir is practically fool proof and only takes 24-48 hours to culture, depending on the temperature in the room. Literally all you have to do is dump some activated grains into some milk, cover with a coffee filter and rubber band (to keep pests out), and strain before using (so you don't swallow the cultures).

How does Dairy Kefir taste? 

Straight up, it's rather like watery plain yogurt. Not exactly "Yuuum!!" but not exactly "blech" either. Add some frozen fruit to make it a smoothie and it's delicious!

So smoothies are the only way to slurp it down? 

No. There are tons of recipes online using dairy kefir. It can be the base of a homemade salad dressing, used in place of buttermilk in pancakes or waffles, used to lacto-ferment vegetables, used for ice cream or frozen dairy pops, over granola, in place of sour cream or yogurt in recipes (especially dips), as a soft cheese (like cream cheese) etc. It's just particularly easy as a smoothie.

What if I'm lactose intolerant?

Actually, the way the culture survives is by eating up the lactose in the milk (the part you're allergic to). So while I won't say lactose intolerant people should run out and slurp this up, many lactose intolerant people have reported zero problems drinking dairy kefir. So it might be worth trying, even if you've had reactions to lactose in the past (with caution, of course, depending upon how allergic you are).

Also, this can easily be made dairy-free by using coconut milk, rice milk, or soy milk (though I wouldn't recommend the latter for other reasons).

Alright, so how does it work and where do I find Kefir Grains?

I've seen Dairy Kefir grains on E-Bay, on Craigslist, and from health stores online. I did not, however, find them in my local health food store (though I don't live in a booming metropolis, so maybe you'd have better luck). If you order Dairy Kefir Grains from a company like Cultures for Health, they come dehydrated (dormant) in milk powder. There's a rehydration period of typically about 5 days, but up to two weeks, where you put the grains into a cup of milk, let it go to town for 24 hours, and then drain and repeat. When the milk starts to sour and thicken, your grains are rehydrated and you can begin using them.

If you have any friends who are crunchy granola, they might already have some dairy kefir grains. Because they're live, they grow and proliferate. So your friend will most likely love to share her extra grains with you, in which case you can get started right away.

I'm starting to rehydrate my grains today. Here's a quick easy video from Cultures for Health to show you how to rehydrate Dairy Kefir Grains.


Additional Links and Resources:

Local Places to get Dairy Kefir Grains (I don't know how often this is updated) 
Some Health Benefits of Dairy Kefir
Seven Yummy Ways to Eat Kefir

This post is linked to: Monday Mania, Real Food Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, and Fight Back Friday.

Full disclosure: I get a tiny kickback if you decide to order anything from Cultures for Health by clicking through the links above. If you do decide to give this a try, I'd appreciate it if you would use that link.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Part 2 of 2: An Ugly But Real Look into Organic Farming

Yesterday I wrote about what I observed at a large conference about pesticides, and some of the abuses that go on in organic farming. But despite all that I said, yesterday, I don't point the finger at the farmers. Perhaps I'm biased because I'm married to a farmer and into a farming family (who use pesticides and sell to packing sheds instead of directly to the consumer), but the farmers are just trying to eke out a living.

The labor is hard. The hours are long. The risk is huge. The pay is minimal.

Farmers are not trying to poison you with pesticides! Pesticides are expensive, they're a hassle to put on, and it's not enjoyable work. Farmers are just trying to keep bugs out of your food (wormy apples, mushy maggoty cherries, aphidy lettuce, slug-infested tomatoes... sound appealing?), to keep weeds from killing their crops, and to keep fungus from wiping out their farm.

Honestly, if I have to die a year earlier in order to keep bugs out of my food, then I say so be it.

What really upsets me about all of this, though, is not the pesticides but the additional chemical sprays put on because of the demands of the consumer.

Consumers want bigger fruit, they want their fruit anytime of the year, and they want more vibrant colors.

Emma Jean decides she wants to eat fresh (not canned or frozen) tomatoes in December. Tomatoes don't grow in December. She goes to the grocery, and there they are. But in order to get there, they had to be infused with known carcinogenic chemical gases in order to appear red.

Cherries are tiny fruit. But a big fat cherry with a crunch to it is more appealing, so growers have to bend over backward to meet the consumer's demand for huge fat red cherries. Do they naturally grow this way? No. So farmers spray their cherries with Gibberellic acid to modify the plant's natural cellular structure.

Apples should be the size of your hand. But how can you make an award winning pie with a tiny apple? Consumers want bigger apples. Growth hormones and genetic modifications are producing mammoth apples. They weigh more. The packing sheds get more money for heavier fruit. The farmer doesn't see an increased wage, because the standard is just raised and it's either use the chemical or go under when your fruit is too small. And if it's not red enough a consumer won't pick it up (taste? no difference; it's all aesthetics), so an additional chemical spray is put on to make the fruit redder.

If we wouldn't demand behemoth neon fruit and vegetables year-round (out of season), there would be drastically fewer chemicals on our food.

The same goes for our demands for fat, tender, juicy meat (which is injected with "up to 15% saline solutions" to give that effect). And milk that will last for 3 weeks. And bread that never grows mold.

So it's not fair to give one side of the story (corruption in organic farming) without showing the reasons that drive farmers to use the chemicals they do.

And that ends this two day tirade.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

An Ugly But Real Look into Organic Farming

Part 1 of 2.

I spent the whole day at a Pesticide conference, today. In a room of almost one thousand men, I counted four women. What the heck was I doing there? My father-in-law has to go once a year to these events to keep his license to buy pesticides, and I asked if I could come along. I wanted an inside scoop on these companies, and was hoping to come away with a greater knowledge of their products and applications (and, yes... perhaps a little ammunition).

While I wasn't able to dig up much dirt on the pesticide companies or big agribusiness growers, my eyes were opened wide to the reality in the fields of "organic farming."

Tale after tale (at the lunch tables in casual conversation with real "organic farmers") of guys skirting regulations, finding loopholes, mocking protocols, and freely admitting that there's a way around a lot of rules. The "organic" apples you pay an extra $3 a pound for may have a lot more exposure to toxic chemicals than you think.

A few more eye openers:

1. One thing that I didn't realize, but probably should have:  "organic" does not mean "no chemical" or "no spray." In fact, "organic" fruits and vegetables are allowed more spraying than "conventional," because the permitted chemicals are not strong enough actually to kill pests and prevent diseases. To compensate for the abysmal effectiveness, additional sprayings of the weaker chemicals are permitted.

2. The same chemical companies that make the organic sprays are making the "conventional" pesticides. I don't know why I assumed they were two separate entities, but it seems to me the equivalent of Coke making Pepsi, or sugar manufacturers making diabetic supplies. How can one company pour research and investments into two diametrically opposed ventures? Is it a conflict of interests?

3. A lot of the organic farmers are in it simply for the money (although the farmers themselves really aren't making as much money as the fruit and vegetable packing companies are), and do not espouse the same principles as the consumers who pay through the teeth for their product. What this means is, they're not really interested in making sure that your food is free of chemical toxins, your streams are free of pollutants, that their practices are sustainable and build up the soil rather than depleting it. So if they can get away with using a few more pesticides, using contaminated equipment, skirting regulations and getting an edge, they're going to do it.

I'm not saying they're bad guys; it's tough to make a living in farming!!

But I am saying that based upon what I saw today, I would say that it's not worth it to pay extra money and trust implicitly in the government's ability to regulate, legislate, and monitor the "organic" label, because abuses are widescale.

So what is a person to do?

1. If you can grow it yourself, then do. This is the only way, truly, to know what's going into your food. If you're not the gardening type, go in with a few friends and offer to pay for seeds and help preserve the harvest (canning, pickling, lacto-fermenting, freezing, etc.).

2. Build up a rapport with a local farmer or hobby farmer at the farmer's market: ask questions. People selling at a farmer's market are a lot more likely to share your ideas on these sorts of things than the mass-scale farmers who sell to grocers. Plus, you're supporting the local guy.

Hm... I guess it's time for me to go peruse those seed catalogs again.

To be continued tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Creamy Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Tasty Tuesday
Grab the button here and come join us, or just link to another site with a recipe you're going to try... or post a recipe in the comments!

Because I'm eating lunch salads at an alarming rate these days, I figured it was time to make some of my own dressing besides the standby oil and vinegar (because I also don't buy salad dressing in the store).


My Caesar salad dressing? Absolutely amazing, but it leaves the worst garlic breath ever! Not exactly something you want at the noon hour.


Enter: Creamy Buttermilk Ranch dressing.


It's creamy. It's buttermilky. It's ranchy. It's really good. I bet a little bacon grease in it would turn it into a great bacon ranch dressing.


But for now I like it as is. And the salad that I really didn't want to look at, yesterday, I suddenly can't wait to consume today.


Creamy Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
Recipe from Annie's Eats

Ingredients:
¾ cup mayonnaise (homemade is primo here)
¾ cup sour cream
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. lemon juice
¼-1 cup buttermilk (pretty runny if you use a whole cup, but some like it that way)
1 small bunch chives
Small handful parsley
1 clove garlic, chopped
½ tsp. kosher salt
Black pepper

Directions:
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor starting with ¼ cup of the buttermilk and blend for 10 seconds.  Check the consistency and taste and blend in additional buttermilk as desired.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

What have you made, lately?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Rabbit Food Resolution

As I dined in the kitchen today, attempting to fulfill my "more vegetables" resolution in one sitting, thoughtfully munching on my alfalfa sprout, lettuce, and radish salad, I couldn't help but feel like I was sprouting rabbit ears.

I like vegetables a lot, but I never thought of them as constituting a complete meal. Bring on the grilled chicken. Bring on the pan-seared steak. Bring on the tuna swimming in mayo. Something I can sink my teeth into! But there I was, filling up on leafy greens, and feeling somberly, soberly, but self-righteously healthy.

The salad wasn't half bad, actually, though it really could have used some ranch dressing.

Remind me again why I have 8 heads of lettuce in my refrigerator.

Oh yes. It's January. I do this every January.

What are your resolutions for this year?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Blogging Plans for 2011

Good morning, good people! Happy New Year!!

I'm still enjoying the utterly good life, lounging around with my family. But I've lost three followers in this little blogging hiatus of mine, so here I am, stealing precious time from my family I only get to see once a year so I can retain some modicum of online popularity. I hope you're thoroughly guilted now. Fame is a fickle mistress.

I have some huge plans for City Wife, Country Life this year! I've got a new series of posts planned for Fridays, beginning January 14th. The loose monthly themes (to be adjusted mercilessly throughout the year based upon time, interest, feasibility, or whims):

January: My First Adventures in Kefir (Water and Dairy)
February: Sprouting and Soaking (Beans, Seeds, Nuts, Grains)
March: Homemade Cleaners and Products (Detergents, Deodorant, Shampoo)
April: Baking (Yeasted Breads, Sourdough, Sprouted Grains)
May: Homemade Dairy (Ice Cream, Butter, Yogurt, Cheese)
June: Preserving (Canning, Freezing, Lacto-Fermenting)
July: Chickens (Getting Started, Care, Costs, What to do with the EGGS)
August: Preserving (Pickling, Jams, Fruit Butters)
September: Snack Foods (Crackers, Granola Bars, Jerky!!)
October: All About Apples (One of God's most perfect foods)
November: Sausage, Lard, and Tallow
December: Candy Making (Truffles, Caramels, Toffee)

Also planned: Giveaways, vlogging (video blogging), guest posts, and of course, more recipes, photos, and stories about life and marriage.

If you have any suggestions or requests for the above monthly themes (or see something that is of absolutely no interest), please feel free to post them in the comments.

Don't forget, we celebrate the Christmas season until this Sunday. Merry Christmas!