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Live Earth Farm (Com)Post
6th Harvest Week, Winter 2006/2007
February 7th, 2007

In this issue
--Greetings from Farmer Tom
--Morris Grassfed Beef
--More pictures from around the farm
--What's in the box this week
--Notes from Debbie's Kitchen

" The land is showing signs of life and deep within the impulse to participate in the wild play of nature returns."
~ Tom

Greetings from Farmer Tom
bee on borage flower

This year I will let Headstart Nursery in Gilroy grow our Pepper and Eggplant seedlings.  It has always been a challenge in our greenhouse, to maintain the optimum 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit to achieve a uniform and high rate of germination for these two popular nightshades. I figure there are enough variables we try to juggle every season and raising pepper and eggplant seedlings is one variable I don't mind not having to worry about.  The riskiest aspects in farming have to do with timing and creating just the right conditions for our crops to thrive. Spring is the season when the stakes of gambling with Mother Nature are the highest. The seedlings in April have to be healthy and strong for transplanting, the soil has to have the right tilth and moisture content, and the temperature should be warm enough for the young transplants to grow. If these conditions don't match up we typically have a really late crop or worse, a complete crop failure.

As I was driving to Gilroy to drop off the eggplant and pepper seeds at Headstart Nursery my concerns about the risk of farming were quickly put into perspective. An NPR news report about Global Warming confirmed that the warming trend of our planet is in large part due to human activities, and as a result will have a significant impact on our climate over the next century. What seems to be encouraging for me, uncertainty of the weather aside, is that there is a renewed interest in promoting more sustainable food production and consumption practices. It is a dream of mine to see a return to an agrarian culture in this country, one where the landscape is once again a mosaic of small farms which in turn create a strong community, honoring skills and resources that have been lost over the last 60 years of industrial farming. Who are the children that will rebuild such an agrarian culture? What function can we play in nurturing a new culture of food? What can the Live Earth Farm Community of Members do to seed hope and inspiration as we enter into a new era of uncertainty? As I reflect on these things I also feel grateful, as a Farmer, to have the opportunity to raise these questions.  Much of my reflections stem from the inspiration that comes from the commitment and support I feel from all of you! – Tom

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Morris Grassfed Beef

Joe Morris' cattle

Hi folks, it’s Debbie – If you are an omnivore in search of a source of healthy, grassfed, grass-finished beef for your family, search no further. Joe and Julie Morris, of T&O Cattle Company down in San Juan Bautista are your answer. I have gotten my own beef from them for several years now (so have many other CSA members) and can attest to the quality of the meat and the integrity of the Morrises, who raise the animals and steward the land. As Julie will tell you, “Our cattle enjoy a completely organic diet of fresh grass, forbs and legumes, clean water, and better views than most of us do! We use neither synthetic hormones nor fed antibiotics: our animals grow only as fast as their genetics and the range will allow. Their range, of course, serves also as watersheds and habitat for us as well as other biological communities. We manage our animals so that they enhance the diversity of life on the range, as well as the quality of the water that falls on the range and flows to the towns and sea. We believe this web of relationships we are stewarding is an integral whole, depending for its health upon all its members: damaging the health of any member of the "whole" community, therefore, damages the rest. Our desire is to produce health with all we do. Only when this is done are we satisfied that Morris Grassfed Beef is all it can be—the best there is for all of us.” Also, all their Morris Grassfed beef cattle are born and raised by them on their ranch in San Juan Bautista; they do not purchase calves and then just finish them on grass. The animals are under Joe and Julie’s care from birth to the time the meat is delivered to you.

Here are a few factoids about eating meat from pastured animals, as gleaned from Michael Pollan’s book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”: • A growing body of scientific research suggests that many of the health problems associated with eating beef are really problems with corn-fed beef. Cattle are ruminants, not designed to eat grain (organic or not). It makes them sick. This is why most of the antibiotics sold in America today end up in animal feed. The research further indicates that pasture substantially changes the nutritional profile of chicken, eggs, beef and milk. • The large quantities of beta-carotene, vitamin E, and folic acid present in green grass find their way into the flesh of the animals that eat that grass. • The fats created in the flesh of grass eaters are the best kind for us to eat. Grass-fed meat, milk, and eggs contain less total fat and less saturated fats than the same foods from grain-fed animals. Pastured animals also contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid that some recent studies indicate may help reduce weight and prevent cancer, and which is absent from feedlot animals. But perhaps most important, meat, eggs, and milk from pastured animals also contain higher levels of omega 3s, essential fatty acids created in the cells of green plants and algae that play an indispensable role in human health, and especially in the growth and health of neurons – brain cells.

In a nutshell, the species of animal you eat may matter less than what the animal you’re eating has itself eaten!

I just talked to Joe Morris this morning about his upcoming season, and thought that those of you who don’t already know about this great resource might be interested in learning more. Joe is going to try something a little different this year. In the past, you would order your meat and pick it up once a year, in the summer. The smallest quantity you can order is a ‘split half,’ which is essentially a quarter of a beef steer, or roughly 85 pounds of meat in the form of steaks, roasts, ground beef and stew meat – enough meat so that an average family can enjoy healthful grassfed beef year round. But Joe realized that not everyone has the freezer capacity for all that meat at one time, and that perhaps some people who otherwise would want to purchase his beef might be unable to because of this. As a result, Joe has decided to offer the meat CSA style – i.e. you can sign up for a ‘split half’ but then take delivery of your meat quarterly, instead of all at one time. That way, you wouldn’t have to set aside as much of your own freezer space to store it because Joe would keep it all in his own big freezer for you, and then deliver one quarter of your share to you in Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring. (He has his own drop-off locations, much like our CSA does.)

If you are interested, I suggest you email Joe and Julie at info@morrisgrassfed.com, tell them I sent you, and ask to be put on their elist. [You will not be bombarded by email from them – they only email their customers a couple times a year.] They will be sending out order forms soon to people on that elist, and they do sell out, so if you’re thinking about it, it doesn’t hurt to get yourself ‘into the loop.’ Just being on their elist does not obligate you in any way. They also have a very nice website if you’d like to browse that before contacting them. Go to www.morrisgrassfed.com. You won’t be disappointed. - Debbie

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More pictures from around the farm

LEF greenhouse in February

The Live Earth Farm greenhouse - where it all (mostly) begins!

Kubota tractor

Our big Kubota tractor, shown at right with the green bean planter attachment; no we're not planting green beans in February - we're taking advantage of the good winter weather to service the equipment in prepration for spring planting.

LEF chickens

Some of Live Earth Farm's chickens. The flock is soon to be added to as we will be taking delivery of 60 new chicks any day now. Tom's niece Bernadette, here for the season from Germany (via Scotland!) is interning at the farm, and will be managing the new flock. These are the birds that will eventually be rotationally grazed on our new chicken pasture (see picture Week 4). In addition to creating happy chickens and nutritious eggs, Tom will be experimenting with using chickens as weed abatement. They may get rotated through other areas of the farm over time (in the swales or the orchards, for example) to eat down the weeds, and fertilize at the same time!

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What's in the box

2 lbs. apples (Billy Bob’s Orchard)
1 bag brussel sprouts (Lakeside Organic Gardens)
1 head green cabbage
1 bunch carrots
1 purple cauliflower
2 bunch chard
1 bunch kale
1 bu. rutabagas, w/greens
3 acorn squash (Lakeside Organic Gardens)

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Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
More recipes this week (I know I didn’t have so many last time!). I still haven’t received my fermenting crock (grrr!), so the recipes for fermented veggies will have to wait. First, a repeat of a recipe I’ve run before for acorn squash (back in 2004, so I feel it’s okay to use again!) but – this time I scanned the photo to share with you. This is why I want to try this (it looks so good!). The rest of the recipes are all from my clipping file (or my imagination). Anything in square brackets [like this] is me putting in my two cents. - Debbie

Acorn Squash rings with Honey-Soy Glaze
from an undated Bon Appetit clippingAcorn squash rings
(modified slightly) serves 4

Nonstick veggie oil spray [or just some oil]
2 acorn squash
3 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. rice vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with foil. Spray with nonstick spray [or brush lightly with oil]. Cut off both ends of each squash, then cut them crosswise into 4 rings each. Scoop out seeds and discard. Place squash rings in a single layer on prepared baking sheet, cover tightly with foil and bake until squash begins to soften, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk next 5 ingredients in a small bowl to blend. Remove foil from squash and brush half the mixture over squash. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake uncovered 10 minutes. Brush remaining mixture over squash and continue to bake until squash is brown, tender and glazed, about 10 more minutes.

Cauliflower with Mustard-Lemon Butter
another undated Bon Appetit clipping
serves 6

1 sm. head cauliflower [purple or white. This will probably be really nice with purple, as the acid from the lemon juice tends to kick up the color of the cauliflower]
1 tsp. coarse kosher salt [or coarse sea salt, or whatever you have]
6 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice [juice from half a lemon]
2 tbsp. whole grain Dijon mustard [or just regular Dijon if you don’t have the grainy type]
1 ½ tsp. finely grated lemon peel
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a rimmed baking sheet. Cut cauliflower in half, then crosswise into ¼ inch thick slices. Arrange slices in a single layer on prepared baking sheet; sprinkle with salt. Roast until cauliflower is slightly softened, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in lemon juice, mustard, and lemon peel.

Spoon mustard-lemon butter evenly over cauliflower and roast until crisp-tender, about 10 minutes longer. Transfer cauliflower to a platter and sprinkle with parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cabbage Soup with Apples and Thyme
by Mark Bittman
4 to 6 servings

3 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
8 C thinly sliced cored green cabbage (about ½ large head)
1 lg. onion, chopped

8 lg. fresh thyme sprigs [or if you don’t have that, just some dried thyme; maybe ¼ tsp. Thyme is pretty potent, like rosemary.]
6 C chicken broth [preferably your own homemade!]
1 ¼ lbs. apples, peeled, cored, cut into ½-inch cubes

Chopped fresh thyme [if you have it, for garnish]

Melt 1 tbsp. butter with oil in a heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add cabbage and onion; sauté until vegetables wilt and brown, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Add the thyme sprigs [or dried thyme] and sauté a minute longer. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Melt remaining 2 tbsp. butter in a heavy large skillet over medium-higih heat. Add apples and sauté until brown and tender, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove thyme sprigs [if used] from soup. Ladle soup into bowls; garnish with apples and chopped fresh thyme and serve. [Obviously if you don’t have the fresh thyme, just skip this step, not the whole recipe!]

Rutabaga Puree with Cardamom and Thyme
yet another Bon Appetit clipping [My mom’s been giving me a subscription to this for years, so I’ve always gleaned the recipes that appealed to me and then recycled the rest of the magazine!]

Hmm, this recipe says ‘serves 12’ and is made with 6 lbs. of rutabagas... I think I’ll try to scale it down to what we’re getting! It’ll probably serve more like 2 to 4.

1 bu. fresh farm rutabagas (Tom says there should be about six), peeled, and cut into 1-inch cubes
¼ tsp. coarse kosher salt [ditto about the salt, as I mentioned above in the Cauliflower recipe]
8 whole green cardamom pods [I’d smash the pods a little with the side of a heavy flat knife, to release their flavor better]
2 tbsp. C creme fraiche [or heavy cream, or maybe plain yogurt]
1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
Freshly ground white pepper

Place rutabagas in a pot with enough cold water to cover by an inch. Add salt and cardamom pods; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover partially, and simmer until rutabagas are tender [pierce easily with a sharp knife], about 15 minutes. Drain rutabagas; discard cardamom pods. Working in batches if necessary, purée rutabagas in a food processor. Return puree to pot. Cook over medium heat until dry, stirring, a few minutes. Mix in creme fraiche and thyme. Season with salt and white pepper.

Chilled Chard with Soy and Sesame
from an April 2000 SJ Mercury News clipping
serves 4 as a first course

2 ½ lbs. chard leaves, thick ribs discarded [better yet, save the stems and use in a different recipe, or at least compost them!]
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. sesame seeds, toasted in a dry skillet until golden

Wash chard leaves, shake to remove excess water and roughly chop. Place in a stockpot, sprinkling lightly with salt as you add leaves. Turn heat to medium, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until wilted, about 10 minutes [I think it’ll take less time than that]. Transfer to a colander set over a bowl, and cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, bring soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil to a boil in a small saucepan. Simmer just until sugar dissolves. Set aside to cool.

When chard has cooled, pick it up and squeeze it with your hands, removing as much liquid as possible. Transfer to a bowl, drizzle with soy mixture, and toss to season evenly. cover and refrigerate until chard is well chilled, up to several hours.

To serve, transfer chard to a serving bowl and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Glazed Carrots with Molasses and Marjoram
yet another undated Bon Appetit clipping!
modified [original recipe served 12] to serve 4

Note: this recipe uses fresh marjoram; if you don’t have your own herb garden or aren’t in a position to shop for fresh herbs at the market, I’m going to suggest dried herb substitutions. But this recipe does sound like it’d be better if you could get ahold of fresh marjoram! – Debbie

1 large fresh marjoram sprig [or about ¼ tsp. dried]
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
½ tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1 ½ inch lengths
2 tbsp. fresh orange juice
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. mild-flavored (light) molasses [ah, don’t listen to ‘em – I love blackstrap!]
½ tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley

Remove leaves from marjoram sprig. Chop enough to measure ½ tsp. Reserve stems [if using fresh]. Melt butter with oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add carrots; season with salt and pepper. Toss with tongs until evenly coated and sizzling, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add orange juice, water, molasses and marjoram stems [again, if using. If you’re going the dried marjoram route, I’d add it here]. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until carrots are almost tender, about 6 minutes. Uncover; increase heat to high and boil until juices are reduced to syrup and carrots are tender, a few minutes more. Discard marjoram stems [if used]. Add parsley and chopped fresh marjoram [don’t add more marjoram if you’re going the dried route]; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Debbie’s Roast Cauliflower Lemon “Spaghetti”
Actually I don’t know what to call this; I made it up for dinner the other night and it was really tasty. The combination may sound weird, but it was yummy!! All I did was:

1. roast the cauliflower (coating it with a little olive oil, then sprinkling it with salt, pepper and turmeric; spread it on a foil-lined pan and then roasting it for 20 minutes or so in a 425 degree oven);

2. make a ‘spaghetti sauce’ with Italian-style sausage (I made my own sausage by taking a package of Morris Grassfed ground beef and mixing in salt, garlic, fennel seed, crushed red chilies, dried basil and a little oregano). Sauté up some onion in a generous amount of olive oil then add the sausage and brown it, then add crushed or chopped or puréed tomatoes (home-canned, if you have them!), maybe a little more basil, maybe a splash of red wine if you have an open bottle... simmer it down to a consistency that makes you happy;

3. serve the sauce atop the roasted cauliflower, then top it with a generous grating of fresh parmesan, a pretty sprinkling of minced fresh Italian parsley and some finely grated lemon zest.

Something about the aromatic lemon zest added at the end links back to the turmeric added in the beginning and it all just works. I don’t know how I come up with these things sometimes; often it is just a function of being dinnertime and I need to make something for dinner, so I just look in the fridge or freezer and see what I have to work with. But when the end result tastes good, I’m happy to share the idea with you all! And of course I welcome your own ideas if you’re willing to share them as well.

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Contact Information
email: farmers@cruzio.com
phone: 831.763.2448
web: http://www.liveearthfarm.net