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Live Earth Farm (Com)Post
4th Harvest Week, Season 13
April 28th - May 4th, 2008

In this issue
--Greetings from Farmer Tom
--What's Up in the Field
--Shakespeare on the Farm!
--Mataganza Garden Sanctuary takes on Medicinal Herb Production
--Plenty of Eggs this year
--Pictures around the farm
--What's in the box this week
--Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
--Calendar of Events
--Contact Information

" A fundamental human right is the right to pleasure, a natural physiological right, the denial of which has contributed greatly to the present global situation. "

~ Carlos Petrini, from 'Slow Food Nation'

Greetings from Farmer Tom

Who says you have to live in the countryside to start a self-sufficient life-style? On the front page, no less, of last Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, amidst its mostly mind-numbing financial news, was an article about front yard mini-farms. If the Wall Street Journal (considered to be the daily financial horoscope for investors around the world) runs a front-page article on a subject such as self-sufficient gardening, is this an indicator that the wheelbarrow may be replacing the mighty shopping cart? Folks with a more pessimistic perspective might interpret the message as we’re on the verge of another Great Depression.  The last time victory gardens were in fashion and people grew their own food was during World War II.

It’ll be awhile yet before lawns, the trademark of American suburbia, come under siege and homeowners recognize their value as a potential resource for growing food. Over 80% of US households have lawns, which adds up to a whopping 30-40 million acres of land – something like the size of Kentucky and Florida combined. Americans spend an average 40 billion dollars annually on their lawns, applying over 70 million tons of pesticides and fertilizer – about 10 times more than the average farm applies per acre.  Most yards today serve as a status symbol. The greener the lawns and bigger the dahlias the more attractive the home (and often the more valuable when appraised). A compost pile and thriving vegetable and fruit garden in the front yard is not (at least not yet) considered a valuable landscape feature in most urban and suburban neighborhoods.

Not long ago our ancestors really did garden for self-sufficiency; it wasn't an option, it was a way of life. My mother still tells me stories how in her family money wasn't used for things you could grow or make yourself, but only for tools, clothes, or sometimes luxury items such as coffee and chocolate.  This may sound a bit radical, but imagine if CSA members grew food in their own gardens and then sold or contributed a portion of their production to fellow CSA members. From Debbie's point of view this would probably be the ultimate logistical nightmare. But it's conceivable to see neighborhood pick-up sites becoming outlets for productive local neighborhood gardens.

It was exactly a year ago that Debbie's husband Ken launched an interactive game on the web called World Without Oil, which opened with the ‘alternate reality’ that gasoline had hit $4 a gallon. In real life, less than a year later, we are already paying over $4 a gallon for diesel fuel to operate our farm machinery.  The future of an abundant and healthy food supply is going to depend increasingly on local and regional food belts, where consumers develop direct relationships with food producers. I like Slow Food’s concept of consumers (or eaters, to be more precise) being “co-producers”, i.e. intimate participants in the food growing process.  Being a Community Supported Farm we are well on our way to building our network of food producers and co-producers.

Finding energy-efficient strategies for growing and delivering crops to you, our ‘co-producers’, is becoming increasingly important.  From my point of view, I am looking for ways to become more efficient in how we package and distribute our shares; I am also looking into ways to reduce the cost of outside inputs by increasing our own compost making capabilities. We were fortunate this winter to have seized an opportunity to acquire a piece of land adjacent to our farm, which in the long term will substantially cut our production costs since it will reduce the amount of time and transportation required to tend our fields (currently we grow crops on 5 different leased parcels, two only a mile or so away, but three, although still here in the Watsonville area, are much further). Having our own land also removes the uncertainty that comes with leased land.

ElisaOur goal, as Carlos Petrini (founder of the Slow Food Movement) so well describes in his book "Slow Food Nation", is that our food must meet three criteria: quality, purity, and justice. We are what we eat, and we are all called upon to evaluate how our food is produced, sold, and consumed. When I see Elisa play in the fields, tasting and exploring the treasures this land sprouts forth, it reminds me that the most important thing about food is that it is pleasurable. When food meets Petrini's three criteria, it will inherently be more pleasurable to consume. The pleasure of food serves as the primary reason why we should care about a sustainable food system, which in turn contributes to a happier and healthier future.

- Tom

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What's Up in the Field

To my great relief, the peppers, eggplants and summer squash plantings I talked about in last week’s newsletter dodged the ‘frost bullet’, so if all goes well we should have a bumper crop. The tomato seedlings got planted out last week... leeks are coming (probably will see them in next week’s shares). Debbie or I will talk about how to differentiate them from green garlic. Our next planting of carrots is coming along nicely, but it will be a few weeks before we have them in the shares again. Anticipation hones the taste buds! And of course the strawberries are really starting to produce. Just in time for the Extra Fruit option, which starts next week...

(at left, healthy summer squash seedlings)

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Shakespeare on the farm!

Please join us for the Wavecrest Montessori Production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – right here on the farm!

Santa Cruz Montessori Wavecrest Middle School invites the Live Earth Farm community to enjoy their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream among the stars and apple trees:

7p.m. this Thursday May 1st and Friday May 2nd

Click here for directions to the farm. The play will be held out in the fire circle, where we hold our community celebrations.

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Mataganza Garden Sanctuary takes on Medicinal Herb Production

Greetings to friends of the farm, old and new... I wanted to give a seasonal update on what’s going on in our Permaculture demonstration site and retreat space, known at the farm as Mataganza, and invite all of this year’s new CSA members to participate in some of our educational programs and community events.  The Mataganza Garden Sanctuary is a one-acre garden and retreat space at Live Earth Farm dedicated to the discovery, application, and celebration of the dynamics of Nature.  Over the past several years it has been a laboratory for many CSA members, students and members of the community at large to learn about Permaculture, get hands-on gardening experience and reflect on the role of humanity in the natural world.  In the upcoming months we will host a gardening internship program, several workshops on Permaculture and Herbalism, and celebrate with a garden open house and work day.  Please see the farm calendar and website for dates and details.  Mataganza is also home to a free, public ceremony of Temple Guaracy, a group that practices the Afro-Brazilian nature-based philosophy and spiritual tradition of Umbanda.    
The Garden’s focus on medicinal species is beginning to crystallize this season in a collaborative project with Five Flavors Herbal Pharmacy and the American School of Herbalism.  Ben Zappin and Ingrid Bauer who run this local business and school will be making tinctures and other products from the wealth of herbs that grow in the garden and are currently in propagation.  In addition they have already begun to teach public workshops on various aspects of herbalism – coming up next is Herbal Medicine Making on May 10th and 11th.  Also, stay tuned for postings in the newsletter on the medicinal properties of some of the culinary herbs included in the CSA shares that Ben and Ingrid will write throughout that year.  We look forward to sharing with you in this small but growing component of the Live Earth Farm.
See You in the Garden, 
Brian Barth, Caretaker of Mataganza

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Plenty of Eggs this year

TLC Ranch chickens out on pastureWe still have Egg Options left, if you’re interested! Spring has sprung, and Jim’s chickens are laying like nobody’s business. These eggs are the Real McCoy: the hens spend their days outdoors on pasture where they can run around, and eat green things and bugs in addition to their organic grain mix. This makes for happy chickens, as well as nutritious eggs with rich, orange yolks. These chickens get to keep their beaks too – a rare thing! Commercial ‘organic’ and ‘free range’ chickens are regularly de-beaked shortly after hatching so they don’t peck each other to death in close quarters. Jim’s birds are not confined like that, so it is just not an issue.

So if you were thinking about getting eggs but unsure if they were sold out, take heart – they’re not! You can still get them! Email Debbie at the farm with how many Options you’d like [1 Egg Option = ½ doz/wk], and she’ll tell you the cost. (Cost is based on $3.25 per option per week, so if you were to start next week, for example, the cost would be $94.25.)

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Pictures around the farm

Elisa, Gillian and Tom eating strawberries

Elisa, Gillian (our new farm intern) and Tom take time out to savor strawberries...

The new land!

One view of some of Tom and Constance's new property; inset, ducks on the pond which is at the back of the property. It is a truly beautiful piece of land!

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What's in the box this week
Content differences between Family and Small Shares are in red; items with a “+” in Family Shares are more in quantity than in Small; anticipated quantities, if any, are in parentheses, as are the source of any produce if not from Live Earth Farm (LEF).Occasionally content will differ from this list (typically we will make a substitution), but we do our best to give you an accurate projection.

Family Share:
Red beets +
Broccoli (Lakeside) +
Fava Beans +
Green garlic
Red Russian Kale
Red leaf lettuce +
Onions +
Mustard greens mix (mizuna and red mustard)
Strawberries (see binder at pickup site for quantities; probably 3 baskets)

Small Share:
Red beets
Bok choi
Broccoli (Lakeside)
Chard OR Kale
Fava Beans
Green garlic
Red leaf lettuce
Strawberries (see binder at pickup site for quantities; probably 2 baskets)

Extra Fruit Option:
(starts next week!!)

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Notes from Debbie's Kitchen
Click here to go to recipe database

Aaaah, the pleasure of food – now Tom’s talkin’ right up my alley! There is so much joy in it; certainly in my life anyway! There’s the fun of picking up the box each week (I like to ride my bicycle), seeing what new goodies are in it. Even though the veggie list is in the newsletter ahead of time, it’s just not the same as opening up the box and peering inside to see all that vibrant freshness. And I really enjoy the ‘processing’ part too – taking the time to prepare and store each item in such a way that it will be good as new when I go to use it later in the week. Then there’s the joy of cooking and preparing meals, the fun of looking at what you have and creating something good to eat from it. When you have such fresh produce to work with, it doesn’t require a lot of fancy preparation – the flavors of the produce shine with simple preparation. And last but not least, the pleasure of eating... well, that goes without saying!

Okay, enough yammering! ;-) I’m going to start by covering the new veggies this week, and simple preparations for them. Depending on how much time I have (these newsletters always take longer than I expect!) I’ll add some more recipes at the end.  - Debbie

Red beets
, at long last!! We have been without them since late fall, when Tom’s seed vendor sent him incorrectly labeled seeds, and so we had a huge crop of white beets instead! All winter long, the only beets we got were white ones, so I’m thrilled to have the color back. Tom says the greens from this particular planting were not so presentable, so they will be topped in the field as they’re harvested, and the leaves will be plowed back into the soil with the next planting. (Normally I talk about cooking with beet greens too, so I’ll hold off on that until we’re getting the green tops along with the beets.)

Simple beet preparation: beets can be eaten raw or cooked. They can be cooked many different ways too (roasted, baked, steamed, boiled), but a ‘quick-and-easy’ if you’re new to them is to use a pressure cooker. A great reference for this is a cookbook by Lorna J. Sass called “Cooking Under Pressure” which has a whole section on ‘Vegetables A to Z’. In a nutshell, place whole, unpeeled (easier to peel after cooking; see below) beets in a rack over boiling water (2C to be safe; you don’t want the cooker to run out of water), lock pot and bring to full pressure. Once pressurized, cook 10 to 15 minutes (Lorna says 11-13 min for ‘small’, 3-4 oz. beets, and 20-22 min. for ‘large’, 5-6 oz. beets), release pressure. Test beets for doneness: they should pierce easily with the tip of a sharp knife. If they are still a little firm, lock lid and cook for a few more minutes.

To peel cooked beets, first allow them to cool enough so you can handle them (of course!) – sometimes when I’m in a hurry I’ll run them under cold tap water a few seconds. Then cut off tops and tails, and you’ll find that the skin just slips off! Very easy.

For your first taste test of a new veggie, I always encourage very simple preparation, so you can see what the veggie tastes like before adding more elaborate flavors. So take your cooked beets and cut them into wedges or slices, toss them while still warm with a little butter so it melts, and then sprinkle with salt. Yum!

Also new this week are the mustard greens, although they’ll only be in the Family Share this week (small shares will get their turn). I love the mustard greens, especially the red mustard. I love using them as a salad green, actually! (See below for using in salads.) First timers try this: take a fresh leaf of red mustard, one that’s bright and alive, and pop it in your mouth. Chew it slowly and thorouhly. Notice how at first, it’s just kind of grassy... but then yowza! you get the flash of mustardy-heat that it is named for. I love snacking on my leafy greens as I’m washing them. My husband always manages to wander through the kitchen when I’m washing greens so he can snack likewise.

Here’s an excerpt from a 2005 newsletter on how to wash and store them: “Key rule: don’t stick wet veggies in a bag in the fridge; they’ll rot quickly. You want humidity, but not wet. Place leafy greens in a sink or basin of cold water and swish around gently but sufficiently to dislodge any dirt or grit which will then sink to the bottom. Then remove them in small handfuls, separating and tossing any excessively bruised or yellowed leaves (or the occasional weed!) and place the washed greens in a salad spinner. Spin two or three times, dumping the water after each spin (you want to get rid of that excess moisture!), then spread the greens out on a cotton towel (or paper towels), layering if necessary, and then roll up and store in a bag, gently squeezing the air out before sealing. If you take the time to do this, I promise you will be glad you did come mid-week! Fresh, washed, bagged greens? Piece o’ cake (and a joy!) to use.”

Using mustard greens in salads: Treat the peppery greens like you would arugula; they’re good offset by fruity flavors – or even fruit, for that matter! Try making a dressing with a sweeter vinegar such as balsamic, a little dijon mustard, pinch of salt, and a mild or nutty oil (I like using roasted walnut oil or flaxseed oil) and if you like, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a dab of honey... toss greens with this then top with sliced strawberries! You can embellish by adding chevre or feta cheese, and/or maybe a little bit of very thinly-sliced onion. Toasted walnuts are nice too if you have ‘em but certainly not required.

The favas are maturing nicely, so most of you are probably transitioning to peeling off the pods and just using the beans within. (If you missed my discussion on how to do this, see the Week 2 newsletter. Scroll down until you get to 'Fava Beans, continued')

Here is a recipe lovingly hand-written and mailed to me by member Carol Locke last year. She has written me twice with info about this recipe actually, and I have been saving them for the arrival of beets, as last year I became very interested in fermenting foods. This is a compilation of both letters, as she had different nuggets of info in each! [My comments in square brackets, as per usual!]

Beet Kvass
Carol says, “Beet Kvass is a lactofermented product like kombucha or kimchi or sauerkraut. In parts of the world where beets are a big crop, beet kvass can take the place of vinegar in soups or dressings. Also it is an excellent blood tonic, aid to digestion, etc. To get the health benefits of beets (raw beets no less!) and those of a lacto-fermented beverage as well, I make beet kvass and drink a 4 oz. glass morning and night. It has an unusual flavor but quite pleasant and refreshing. If salt predominates, let it age in the refrigerator until it develops a tangy acidity.”

3 medium-large organic beets, or equivalent smaller ones, peeled and coarsely chopped. Do not grate beets for kvass as the small pieces exude too much juice resulting in too rapid fermentation, favoring the production of alcohol rather than lactic acid. [ ‘Course who knows? That may be interesting too!]
¼ C whey – obtained by dripping a good quality plain yogurt through a coffee filter. The yogurt thickens and can be used for other things; save the whey that drips out!
1 tbsp. sea salt [don’t use table salt, which has additives]

Place all ingredients in a 2 qt. glass mason jar [or similar], and add filtered or distilled water to fill [tap water has chlorine which is counterproductive to the fermentation process; don’t use tap!]. Stir well. Cover securely. Keep at room temperature 2 days, then refrigerate. Pour off and use the liquid ‘kvass’. [I keep my kvass at room temp for up to a week before refrigerating. If it develops a 'bloom' of mold on the liquid's surface, that won't hurt anything: simply scoop it off and discard. I find using a coffee filter for this works best: I carefully slide it down one side of the jar mouth and under the mold, then slowly bring it up under the other side. The kvass drains out and the mold stays on the filter. Do this a couple times until you've removed the stuff to your satisfaction.]

When the liquid is gone, a second batch can be made by filling the container again with filtered water and leaving at room temp. 2 days again, etc. After that, discard [compost] the beets. You may want to use some of the liquid from a former batch as a ‘starter’ for your next one, but it is not required. [I also add more whey and salt with my second go-round.]

Additional notes from Debbie: the recipe can be easily doubled. I've also used a mix of red and golden beets... and the kvass comes out mellower, different. But delicious!

3/11/09 update: for further discussion on Beet Kvass, click here (and scroll to end of Winter Newsletter Week 8)

Beet Sandwiches
I missed this gem in Carol’s first letter – she talks about how “the strong flavor of beets stands up to garlic very well. I like beets so well this way [sliced cooked beets in a vinaigrette with lots of garlic] I seldom prepare them any other way any more. They are good hot or cold, a great addition to salads, but I also like them in sandwiches (!) with plenty of mayonnaise, lettuce, salt and pepper!” So there you have it folks: beet sandwiches!

Roasted Broccoli with Lemon and Breadcrumbs
This is a variation on a recipe I ran in 2004; my friend and fellow member Alie Victorine made this for me the other night and it was so easy and so delicious, I had to run it again!

Broccoli cut into florets, stems peeled and cut into equivalent pieces
olive oil, salt and pepper for roasting

butter and olive oil
lemon zest
minced garlic [yes green garlic] or onion

juice from lemon [remember to zest it first!]

Toss broccoli with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a hot oven, about 425 degrees, for 20 minutes or so, until lightly browned.

In a small skillet or saucepan, melt butter and olive oil together. Add garlic or onion and simmer a bit; add lemon zest and breadcrumbs and stir/cook until they begin to crisp and brown. Remove from heat.

Put roasted broccoli in a bowl and squeeze lemon juice over all. Add prepared breadcrumbs and toss together, then serve. Oh this is just so tasty!!

<> You can steam the broccoli instead of roasting it
<> Try adding chopped fresh mint to the breadcrumb mix
<> Try adding grated fresh parmesan to the ‘toss’ at the end

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2008 Calendar of Events
For details on events listed below, please Click here to go to the calendar page on our website.

Santa Cruz Permaculture Design course - one weekend/month for 6 months, Feb-July

Spring "Six Thursdays" Mataganza Garden Internship
- every Thursday from May 1st through June 5th, 10am - 5pm, in the Mataganza Garden Sanctuary at Live Earth Farm.

Herbalism Classes at Live Earth Farm:
<>Herbal First Aid
- March 15-16
<>Medicine Making - May 10-11
<> Cooking with Herbs - July 19-20

Summer Solstice Celebration - Saturday June 21st

Children's Mini-Camp - July 11th - 13th (Friday evening thorugh Sunday noon)

Fall Equinox Cob Building Workshop and Campout - Sept. 20 and 21

Fine Farm Feast - Oct 4th

Fall Harvest Celebration - later in October (date TBA)

Contact Information
email Debbie at the farm (for any farm or CSA share-related business): farmers@cruzio.com
email Debbie at home (with newsletter input or recipes): deb@writerguy.com
farm phone: 831.763.2448
website: http://www.liveearthfarm.net