Friday, December 28, 2012

Agricultural Inspiration

As the temperatures finally sink below freezing and the winter wind picks up, I find myself seeking inspiration and comfort to wait out the next few months until seeds can be started and the Earth worked again.

To help ease the ache of winter, I'll be periodically posting poems, prose and other writings from various authors (including myself, when the Spirit moves me!).  I'll start with a few postings from Wendell Berry's book, "Farming: A Handbook," a collection of poems written by the eloquent Kentucky farmer.

Let's begin with some funny and insightful pieces. For the next few weeks, I'll post a collection each week from the Prayers and Sayings of the Mad Farmer. Enjoy!

It is presumptuous and irresponsible to pray for other people. A good man would pray only for himself - that he have as much good as he deserves, that he not receive more good or more evil than he deserves, that he both nobody, that he not be bothered, that he want less. Praying thus for himself, he should prepare to live with the consequences.

At night make me one with the darkness.
In the morning make me one with the light.

If a man finds it necessary to eat garbage, he should resist the temptation to call it a delicacy. 

Don't pray for the rain to stop.
Pray for good luck fishing
when the river floods.

Don't own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Healthy Holiday Recipes

We had a delicious time during the first healthy cooking class since I've returned from maternity leave.  My 3-month-old daughter, Skyla, was there to enjoy it. And apparently the spicy Pozole soup wasn't too much for her little tummy, either!

We are still finalizing the 2013 schedule of classes, but be assured that we will hold a class every month throughout the year - many opportunities for great recipes and nutrition tips.  Again, a big Thank You to the Art Institute of Wisconsin International Culinary Arts and Nutrition programs. We couldn't do these classes without  you!

Culinary Students chopped and prepared ingredients to go into the Pozole - a traditional Mexican soup 
Chef Instructor Claire Menck answers questions
about ingredients and cooking techniques
Boiling ancho chilies with garlic and water
to make the chili paste (garnish for Pozole)
Using mortar and pestle to grind
the softened chili and spices
Final chili paste - delicious!

Pozole ready to be garnished with chili paste, lemon/lime, and cilantro
Boiling fresh fruit, spices and sugar cane
to make warm Ponche (cider-like punch)
Nutrition Instructor Renee Scampini explaining the recipe modifications used to reduce sugar and fat content of the dishes.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Healthy Cooking Class - Dec 14th

One of my first tasks 'back to work' has been to schedule and organize the next Healthy Cooking class at CORE/El Centro - in partnership with the Art Institutes of Wisconsin International Culinary Arts program. 

We will be holding the next class on Friday, December 14th at 3:30-5pm.  The class only costs $5.00 for food, recipes, nutritional information and fun!  We'll be making and sampling a soup, appetizer, two desserts and a spiced hot chocolate.  

See my August Post for pictures from our last cooking class series, focused on Garden-to-Table recipes. 

If you are interested in attending, please give me a call at 414-225-4267.  We look forward to having you! 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Putting the Garden to Bed

Volunteers make one final harvest before taking down the garden

It's that time of year in Wisconsin - time to prepare and protect our soils for the coming winter season.  The first step in winter preparations is to take out as much plant matter as you can.  Any leaves or fruit that have disease on them should be thrown out, but non-diseased stems, leaves and veggies should be composted. 

Cutting your plant trimmings before adding to compost helps them break down more quickly

Once you've 'cleared' the garden, it's time to rebuild the soil.  Fall is the best time to add organic matter (i.e. compost) to your garden, as it will take the next 6 months or so to break down and release its nutrients into the earth.  Then your garden will be ready to go in the spring! 
Beds are empty and ready to receive cover crop! 

Protection is the final - and arguably most important step - in winter preparations. There are basically two protection options: mulch and cover cropping. Mulch is a good way to protect the soil surface from rain, wind, and snow damage.  It can also help protect any perennial herbs or plants you are overwintering.  However, cover cropping can achieve the same protection while adding nutrients to the soil below the surface. Cover crops are usually cereal grains or legumes that are planted in the fall, allowed to germinate and then are killed or 'turned under' in the spring, creating green mulch and adding a fresh source of nitrogen before your first plantings.  

Water the garden until your cover crop has germinated - then  you're  free to rest until spring!

This year we are using Winter Rye for our cover crop because we are getting a late start.  Winter Rye is the one cover crop that be planted after the first frost and still have a chance of germinating.  Because it is winter hardy, however, it does pose some challenges in the spring when it's time to turn it under. Winter Rye can be purchased in the bulk section at your local grocery store and should be planted at a rate of 3oz per 100 sq. ft.  In the spring when it grows to about a foot high it should be mowed down then worked into the soil.  Always wait at least two weeks after turning under your cover crop to plant in that soil - that give the plant material time to break down and the nitrogen to become available for your newly planted seeds.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Different Kind of Harvest

I am happy to introduce Skyla Rose Calloway - whose first breath on this Earth came September 10, 2012.  She entered this world at 7 lbs. 12 oz., 20.5 inches long!

Thank you ALL who have supported us during the pregnancy and will continue to love and support Skyla in her life.  I can't wait to watch her continue to grow in the garden.  :-)

I'll be taking a break from the blog for a few months to immerse myself in motherhood.  Stay tuned for a late fall post about winter preparations!

5 Months

6 Months

8 Months
9 Months
Skyla's birth day at Columbia St. Mary's

Update: Mom and Daughter 6 weeks later!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Flourishing Garden Produce

As we get nearer and nearer to the end of the summer, it is incredible to see the garden continuing to grow and flourish - tomatoes are ripening daily, eggplants and peppers continue to thrive, and we even still have strawberries ripening!

Today is my final working day before I start a 12-week maternity leave, so I thought it was important to post some garden update pictures before I leave the garden in the knowing and able hands of our volunteer corps.

So far this year, we've harvested over 20 pounds of food from the garden - including two pounds of basil leaves that went to Purple Door Ice Cream (our neighbor on the first floor!) for their basil ice cream. Delicious!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Cooking from the Garden

Today we hosted our first CORE/El Centro Healthy Cooking class, in partnership with the Art Institute of Wisconsin's International Culinary Arts program.  The focus of today's class was "Cooking Seasonally - Market to Table Recipes" and featured eggplants, tomatoes, peppers and herbs from the Edible Skyline.

As I mentioned in the previous post, we have an abundance of eggplants on the roof, thanks to our windy conditions and ample water source. So eggplants were the centerpiece of today's recipes - Eggplant Pizzas (using sliced eggplant as the pizza dough), Ratatouille (using all ingredients from the rooftop and/or the local market), and Veggie Skewers.

What produce we didn't have on the rooftop, I picked up at the Walker's Square farmers market - held three days a week, four blocks from the Clock Shadow building.

This first class was a huge success and we'll be sure to keep you posted on future classes!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

How to turn eggplant flowers into fruit

When you think of 'pollination' do you picture bees or paintbrushes?  When it comes to eggplant, pollination has nothing to do with insects - and all to do with wind!  Eggplant flowers, unlike nearly ALL other vegetable flowers, are self-pollinating; that is, each flower has all that it needs to grow into a beautiful, purple fruit - if given the correct circumstances.

Many gardeners have frustratingly tried growing eggplants to find that they have an abundance of the beautiful purple flowers and see NO harvest!  In order for eggplants to self-pollinate, the plants need to be far enough apart for the wind to jostle the flowers so that the pollen can fall onto the pistil, pollinating the flower.  This can also be a problem in very humid conditions, when the pollen is too sticky to go anywhere.

Fortunately, on the rooftop we have no shortage of wind, so our eggplants are in full production!  If you're trying to grow eggplant and not sure that your plants will get enough wind, you can pollinate the flowers yourself by taking a clean paintbrush and moving it around inside of the flowers.  This will ensure the pollen gets to the pistil.

Also, don't forget that eggplants like a lot of water - 2 inches a week, in fact. So if you're still having problems with flowers falling off before they fruit, try upping your watering and see if that helps.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Rooftop Garden Brunch

On June 24th, we had our first private event on the rooftop - a Sunday Brunch!  This was actually a Silent Auction item that was won at CORE/El Centro's fundraiser in May.  It was a beautiful day for a delicious meal and the 10 guests who attended are eager to be back for more rooftop revelry!

(Pictures are courtesy of Nancy Rubly)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Children in the Garden

As part of the Community Health and Fitness program, CORE/El Centro offers children's activities during most of our movement classes.  We are excited to start engaging some of these kids in garden planting, watering, and tasting!

This week we had some of the kids come up and plant tomatoes.  We'll have a group of kids come up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to water the garden while their parents are taking zumba classes.  We'll also have the kids make some good signage for the garden - and, of course, enjoy the "fruits" of their labor!