I am totally in love with homemade vinegar! It makes the most refreshing drink mixed with soda water. And it is so, so easy.
Basically, you can use any kind of edible plant material. My favorite so far is rose or rhubarb rose. You can use peony, red clover, basil, spruce tips, chive blossoms... anything fresh.
Fill a glass jar half full with the plant material and if there is no natural sugars in it, add some honey or sugar. A few tablespoons per quart should do it. Top it off with non-chlorinated water.
Cover with a cloth held on with a rubber band and set it on your counter where you will remember to stir it once or twice a day.
After a week or two strain out the solids, put the liquid back into the jar with a lid and stick it in a dark cupboard for a few months. Then you will have vinegar!
AND it will be healthy vinegar, full of probiotics. This is the sort of living food my body craves. It's great for salads and soups, but my favorite way to use it is to make a healthy, refreshing non-alcoholic beverage. You can mix it with honey for a switchel, or just do straight vinegar and water/ soda water.
Try it and let me know what kind is your favorite!
Rhubarb is one of the stars of Alaskan gardens. It produces gorgeous red and green stalks all summer long, and can thrive with very little care. But sometimes rhubarb can get a bit old and worn out and can benefit with some love.
If the stalks have grown thin and spindly, you can split it. This is best done in the spring right when it comes out of the ground. Just take a number 2 shovel or a spade and go right down the middle of the plant. Dig out half and replant it somewhere else or give it to a neighbor. Fill the hole in with compost if you have it.
Rhubarb also loves a bit of manure. Any kind will work. Just spread it around the base of the plant, cover it with wood chips, dried grass, or any other kind of mulch, and water well.
If we have a dry spring, watering your rhubarb will really get it going. This year, it's not so necessary.
And finally, never cut, but pull stalks out with a twisting motion. Twist off the leaf and tuck it under the plant to keep weed down and feed the plant. Cutting leaves little nubs that will rot and damage the plant.
If you continually harvest your rhubarb it will stay tender all summer long in Alaska. If you are further south, the hot summer weather will turn your rhubarb tough. Stop harvesting it when the weather turns colder in the fall.
I have tons of rhubarb recipes, but this bread is amazing! Not too sweet!
This soup is perfect for a chilly spring day. It could be made from perennial walking onions or leeks overwintered in your garden instead of the onions. And don't forget to leave some parsnips in your garden in the fall to dig out fresh in the spring!
Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onions and parsnip and cook until softened. Add flour and cook about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add broth and milk and bring to a simmer. Cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and nutmeg. Add cauliflower and simmer 5-10 minutes until thawed (if frozen) or cooked through (if fresh). Blend and serve. Add more broth or milk if it gets too thick.
We are having a super cold, late spring here in South-central Alaska, which makes me think of baking. I SHOULD be cleaning out the freezer, though, so why not do both? This morning I made a blueberry coffee cake, and while taking out the blueberries, I noticed I still have 3 more packages of zucchini in there! Score!
Last weekend I made this chocolate zucchini cake for a friend's birthday and it was the hit of the party. One person said it was the only chocolate cake they like because it's not too sweet. It actually uses less than half of the sugar called for in the original recipe, and it's perfect!
So here's the recipe! If you are bummed out about all the snow, this is guaranteed to lift your spirits.
If you don't have frozen zucchini, you can plan some for next year. Now is the time to start your zucchini in 3 or 4 inch pots. Plant 2 seeds per pot, and thin them down one!. These guys DO NOT like to have their roots disturbed and will not produce well if they are crowded. Transplant them to your garden at the end of the month.
To freeze the zucchini, I let them get a little bigger and then shred them in the food processor. Then I just pack them into freezer ziplocks and freeze. No blanching or other processing required.
Who can guess what kind of fish this is?
Chocolate Zucchini Cake
This week we've been participating in a community trash pickup with HoWL, Homer Wilderness Leaders.
It was so fun to work together with other youth to tackle this dirty job. There is really something magical about working with people towards a common goal that unites you together, and I think we all made some wonderful friends this week.
It was deeply satisfying to be taking action for our earth and community. So often we may think about or talk about what could be better, but actually doing something is so empowering.
It was easy to see the difference we were making as we drove past the places where we cleaned and saw how nice it looked. I felt like each piece of plastic I put in my bag was saving it from ending up polluting the ocean or the soil.
So many people honked or stopped by to tell us how much they appreciated us cleaning up. And maybe we even inspired people to do a little cleanup of their own, or help the community in some other way.
Most of the trash we picked up was plastic, and it really got me thinking about ways I can further reduce the amount of plastic I use.
All this plastic trash goes into plastic bags to be put in a landfill (in nature) to sit there for eternity. Just so we can have the convenience of single servings of string cheese or granola bars. Juice or water to go. Or tacos to-go.
It just isn't right.
Most of this stuff that comes wrapped in plastic isn't good for us anyway. Even water that has been...
Are you picky about the food you eat?
Or do you just eat anything that is put in front of you?
Do you select food that is fresh and flavorful? Food that makes your body feel good?
Or do you go for immediate gratification? Salty, sweet, or crunchy?
Do you really taste the food you eat or are you just trying to fill your belly, or some other need?
These are not rhetorical questions. I'm sure you fall somewhere in-between. But reflecting on where you fall can give you greater awareness of it.
I have this huge crush on French food culture. I just really love how they approach food, and I wish that we could create a similar culture here in the states.
They really value fresh, wholesome food. They cook real meals with a beginning, middle, and end and sit down with their families to eat. They insist on real food in their daycares and schools. They pay attention to flavor and texture when planning their meals. They value top quality ingredients. And they really enjoy their food.
For the French, meals are an important part of the day, not just putting gas in the tank.
In my own life I am trying to cultivate this same reverence for good food. I put loads of time and energy into growing and preserving my own fresh vegetables. I go out of my way to get fresh, raw milk from a farmer friend a few miles away. I spend time planning and cooking fresh food for the boys and me. I make all our own yogurt, tortillas, bread, bone broth, and more. I share...
I had a teacher in Pennsylvania sign up for my Green Thumb Course the other day. He's teaching gardening to an ecology class but he is neither an ecologist nor a gardener, which is why he signed up for my course.
I am beyond excited to guide him as he teaches this supremely important subject and skill to his class.
It is truly one of the most important skills kids can learn for the health of their future and the planet.
Here's 13 reasons why.
1. Children learn that they are a part of nature, not separate from it. What happens to nature happens to themselves. Everything is connected and there are no "bad" guys in nature.
2. Children learn to nurture nature and build soil, and are able to grow food anywhere from scratch.
3. Children are connected to the cycles of the seasons, birth, growth, death, and rebirth are all equally valuable and important.
4. Children are empowered by providing food for their class or family.
5. Children are grounded by their connection to the earth, providing stability in an unstable world.
6. Children absorb beneficial microbes from the soil through their contact with the soil and through eating the raw vegetables, healing their guts and helping them be healthier.
7. Children are more likely to eat food they have grown themselves, and are exposed to new vegetables they may not have eaten before.
8. Children release stress and anxiety through gardening.
9. Children appreciate good...
This weekend the boys and I attended a natural building workshop at a small intentional community near us called Ionia.
It was the first workshop put on by the new Ionia Folk School offered completely in the spirit of the gift. They did not ask for money or "donations" of any kind.
There is so much I loved about this.
We were invited to participate in their community. Camp in their field. Eat meals with them. Make ourselves at home.
A community member gave us a wonderful tour of their space. They taught us about building with light clay slip. And we helped them build a massive wall of a house.
It was a beautiful exchange of energy, knowledge, and willing hands.
I knew some of the participants. There was Leah, who took my course 7 or 8 years ago, and her dad, Will. There was my friend Angelina, another single mom interested in community and building a good life. I met Ivy and Jason at a Permaculture gathering some time ago. And Mariyam had actually stayed in my house one time when we were gone in Anchorage.
I met new people too. Sherry and her teenage daughters. David and his brother from Portugal. Lovely Amy who came with Angelina. And enthusiastic Sue.
Gregory and his brother Jimmy, whose house we were working on were leading the project. Jimmy's wife made sure we had snacks and water and their 3 young children made frequent appearances on the building site.
As we worked, we fell into a rhythm. Everyone had a part to...