Archive for May, 2012
Our house is located in an area that used to be planted in tobacco. Tobacco farms are notorious for having a lot of anthills in them. Well, our property is covered in anthills. The problem is that the ants have figured out that there’s a restaurant in our house and they are frequently a problem. If we even leave one drop of something on the counter it is like a feast to tiny sugar ants!
One of our biggest problems was ants getting into the countertop compost container. It was like a four lane freeway, as they would make a beeline to the latest smorgasbord. I tried everything I could to get rid of them: mint, catnip, lemon juice, even boric acid, etc. It didn’t do much to slow them down.
I was watching a documentary one day and they were commenting on how the moats around castles were really the dumping ground of all their waste materials. I was grossed out by that thought, but then I had a lightbulb moment. If a moat could keep out human invaders, could it keep out ant types?
I took a bowl, turned a small plastic container upside down in it, put the compost container on top of that, filled the bowl with water and immediately our ant population dropped by 80-90%. They can’t swim far enough to get to the compost bin anymore.
It may not be quite as elegant looking at the bamboo bin did sitting on the counter, but we’re sure a lot happier. So, if you’ve got ants in your compost collection container, you just might need a moat.
Of course I’d love to hear your creative ways at keeping all kinds of unwanted critters away. So please share them below.
Recently my husband was reading all about the benefits of eating sauerkraut. This put a bee in his bonnet to make some, which he’s done many times before. Once he’d got the cabbage all ready to sit around and become kraut, he placed it on top of a small cabinet that houses all our containers of beans and grains.
Everything was fine until the third morning. My husband went to check on it and found that it had overflowed all over everything. Now this wouldn’t have been too bad if he’d had it on the countertop, but what we didn’t know is that “cooking” kraut is an excellent paint remover! Also, it is a great glue melter. So, alas and alack my little cabinet is now in need of major repairs. The plywood on one side separated into all its layers and buckled into large swollen areas; the top now looks like a disturbed lake; and even the shelves on the top half warped significantly. We’ve managed to re-glue some areas, however, it looks like we’re going to have to deconstruct it enough to replace one entire side panel, ugh.
So, warning. Place your fermenting kraut on a surface that can’t be damaged by it. The little cabinet will now be taken out to the storage area and the refinishing I was planning for later in the season will commence immediately. Luckily I have a plastic storage shelf I can put in its place for the duration of the refinishing or we’ve have containers of beans and grains setting everywhere, which we do at the moment.
Aside from that, kraut is a great food, highly nutritious, with many health benefits. It’s way better than any probiotic you can buy; helps boost the immune system; may help protect against flu virus. It is very easy to make. Here’s how we do it:
- 1 large crock pot, the ceramic part
- 1 plate that just fits the top of the crock pot, don’t leave air space as that will cause mold to develop
- Something to weigh the plate down. Right now we’re using a jar of grains, but have used jugs filled with water, too.
- You’ll need one large, or one and a half small heads of organic* cabbage. Something that will fill the crock up to within about 1-2” from the top.
- Coarsely shred about 2/3 to 3/4 of the cabbage. The other 1/3 to 1/4 finely shred. This seems to help the process get going quicker.
- Place the cabbage in the crock and fill it with enough water to cover it all completely, but not overflow.
- Place the plate on top, usually with the top side down and weigh down with whatever your using.
- Set it in a warm place.
- In 3 – 7 days you should have sauerkraut. The way you tell is by the smell and taste. If it smells like kraut then dig down below the surface just a little and taste it. Not done enough leave it a little longer until it is the sour flavor you like.
- We add the salt afterward. At one time we had a problem with the salt stopping the fermenting process.
Kraut Preparation Ideas
Just remember sauerkraut is best eaten raw. If you cook it you kill most if not all the beneficial bacteria. So, that being said, what’s your favorite way to eat sauerkraut?
*Organic works best, as the bacteria that causes the fermentation are still alive. Non-organic has been sprayed and may not produce a good product.
Just want to give you a heads up. I’m going to be offering a free demonstration of my “Cooking by Feel” method of food preparation on June 12th, from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. It will be held at The Creative Center in Greensboro, NC. You can see the calendar listing. I discovered I have a knack for being able to just grab things out of the fridge, willy-nilly, and end up preparing a delicious dish or meal. My goal, through the demonstration and classes, is to get people eating more freshly prepared food, with minimal time involvement, and make it so tasty they won’t want to go back to pre-prepared or fast foods.
I don’t have a clue what I’m going to fix, because what I’ll do is, the day of the event, I’ll grab stuff out of my fridge, load it up, take it to the site where the demo is, and I’ll prepare one or two dishes for people to taste.
I will make sure I have a wide selection of my most used herbs, as well as all my food fixers. You know those things that you add when you made it too salty, bitter, sour, etc. Other than that it will just be whatever whim I happen to have that day.
These demos are a lot of fun and you get to taste whatever concoction I come up with. I hope you’ll join me as I venture into in-person opportunities to learn healthy gourmet meal preparation.
Photo courtesy of Lisa Solonynko.
My schedule has been such that I haven’t been able to shop at local farmer’s markets for quite some time. Recently I decided I needed to change that schedule and get back to supporting local food production.
Just today, after I’d made that decision, my husband showed me a documentary that was really interesting, but also a little disturbing. In the PBS series “America Revealed” near the beginning of episode one – Food Machine – Yul Kwon visits the Shasta dam in northern California. He says that because of this one dam California is able to produce 1/2 of all food consumed in the USA. He also stated that if that dam were compromised in any way 1/2 of all food in America would stop being produced. There would be no water to do it.
Now I’d already decided to start buying locally, as much as possible. Now I want to call you to do the same. If you have a local farmer’s market, or CSA (consumer support agriculture), please start buying as much of your food from there as you possibly can. If we start supporting local food production, if something should happen to the dam in California we’ll be in a lot better shape.
That’s an important reason for buying your foods locally, but here are some others. The food is much fresher. If I put a zucchini bought at the store and a zucchini I’ve picked fresh from my garden in the refrigerator at the same time, guess which one lasts longer? Well, it seems pretty obvious that something fresh picked should last longer, however, I’ve had zucchinis still fresh in my fridge after 3 weeks, if they came from my garden. I’ve never had one last more than a week from the store.
This also means more nutrients, as some nutrients degrade as time passes. Locally grown food doesn’t have to travel long distances, so different varieties that have better taste can be grown, supporting our seed biodiversity. Plus they can grow unusual varieties if they know they have a market for them.
You’ll also know what has gone into growing your food. Now I wouldn’t walk up to a farmer and ask him how he grows his stuff. Get to know him a little, let him see that you’re not a threat (many farmer’s see a stuffy city person as not having any understanding about what they’re up against). Just casually ask about their thoughts on organic growing, etc., be non-threatening, and certainly don’t try to convert them when you first meet them.
Of course if you have some local organic growers you can always vote with your money. If non-organic farmers see that the organic farmers sell out faster and they sell more, then they’ll be interested, as that means a higher dollar to work ratio. I don’t know any businessman who’s not interested in that.
Of course growing your own and sharing your over abundance if you have it is the best way, but not all of us have the time, money, or space to do that. The next best thing is to try and buy what you need from within 100 miles of your home. I’m working on that.