Spring At Last!  

Posted by Dave in , ,

Last night we had the richest dinner. It is spring here, deep blue skies and fingers of leaves grasping for birth. In my travels of the day, tilling the earth for myriad hopeful gardens, I had gathered a nice bunch of morels - a delightful mushroom that grows wild for only a week or three each year here.

My daughter Elizabeth (11), had gathered a nice sized bowl of tender young dandelion greens - in spite of the enthusiastic help of her little brother Jake (5).
I gently tossed the morels into an old black iron skillet, and while they gently simmered in a generous lump of fresh butter, Elizabeth made a nice vinaigrette in an old jelly jar. Jake toasted old bread in the toaster and pestered her to cut them into croutons.
As the morels slowly cooked down and released their water, I whipped a bunch of eggs from a neighbor's coop until their large deep golden yolks matched the daffodils in the mason jar that was our centerpiece. When the mushrooms were soft, I added the eggs and gently scrambled them, making sure each mushroom was coated, and that they were distributed evenly throughout.

Served with mugs of cold raw milk, the yellow eggs and their large dark chunks of morel stood in brilliant contrast to the deep green of our simple salad. Savoring those contrasts - bitter, sweet and sour, mellow and musky, we wiped our plates clean with chunky slices of bread cut from a big round loaf that I had made that morning. For dessert, more of the same bread slathered with tart elderberry jelly, a trade from another neighbor.

Outside, the creek whispered a soft background music to our quiet chattering, flowing past our little cabin in the woods, as we flow through our lives, only occasionally pausing to reflect the richness of our simplicity.

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Organic Food Gardening Beginner's Manual  

Posted by Dave in

Create a healthy garden (and lifestyle) and you will regain energy levels, help restore your immune system and give you and your family the best chance of living long, happy and healthy lives. Plus you'll be reducing your impact on the environment.

Organic Gardening Lover

From: Julie Villani

Barossa Valley, South Australia

Dear Organic Garden lover,

When I was a little girl I spent most school holidays with my grandparents. We lived many hours drive from them, so I was always excited to be going to stay for a week or two.

I have many warm memories of wandering around after my grandpa in the garden. He'd talk to me about this plant and that, showing me how to look after them, when to pick them and even how to store them. He'd let me plant seeds with him. And of course there was the feeding of the chooks and collecting the 'googs' as we'd call them.

My favourite part of the day was mid-morning when we'd ritually go pick our oranges. We'd bring them into grandpa's work shed, slice them and slurp away! They had a Valencia tree and a Navel, so there were oranges ready to pick almost all year round. Their home grown fruits and vegetables tasted so much better than what I was used to at home (my parents didn't really care much for gardening, so pretty much all of our food came from the supermarket).

It was those cherished times spent with my grandpa that gave me my love of gardening. But when I finally bought my own home, some years later and started to garden - well let's just say that I didn't have a green thumb. It was embarrassing! Surely there's a gardening gene passed on from generation to generation? Even if it skipped a generation that should have still worked out for me.

Several seasons in a row I started out with so much enthusiasm, only to watch my veggies start off OK, then become straggly and wither, or bolt straight to seed. What was I doing wrong???

When I think back now on those early years I can see clearly each and every mistake.... well it's the bleeding obvious ones that really stand out in my mind. My biggest problem was that my grandparents had both passed over by the time I had my own "garden".

And my parents didn't have a clue about gardening, so they were no help. Most of my friends grew up with the same dilemma as me - our parents just weren't gardeners.

So there was quite a bit of hit and miss in my first few years of organic gardening. I managed to have some things give me small yields, but many of my plants didn't thrive. The thing is, that I really loved the time I spent in the garden - especially the veggie garden. It was the one place where I could feel calm... to recharge and restore some sanity to my life.

I decided to get a serious amount of learning into my head, one way or another. I decided to educate myself so that I could get good at growing my own food.

I studied horticulture at TAFE, completing certificate III in Horticulture. Then I became the co-owner of an edible plants nursery for several years.

By this time I was growing enough vegetables to keep my family going over the main growing season. I was quite proud of myself - and still am. The thrill of saying "I grew that" about things we were eating - well I can tell you - it's joyful. Truly joyful!

But you don't have to spend all the time it took me, effort and money to learn how to become a successful organic gardener. The combination of my love for growing (and eating) organic food, along with my experience with plants led me to create the...

" Organic Food Gardening Beginner's Manual "

To read the rest of the story Click Here!

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All Butter Pastry Crust  

Posted by Dave in ,

Makes 2 crusts - enough for top and bottom

* 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 tsp sugar
* 2 sticks chilled butter, (about a cup if homemade) cut into pieces, unsalted

1. Mix the flour, salt and sugar in a medium-size bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, and work it until mixture resembles coarse meal.
2. Add 3-4 TBS ice water and work with hands until dough comes together. careful here! Add the ice water slowly as the amount needed will vary with the day, temperature humidity, and some ineffible quality you may hope to someday feel (at least I do). If the dough is still dry and crumbly, add more ice water a tablespoon at a time (up to 4 more tablespoons), but do not overwork because that will make the pastry tough.
3. Divide dough in half, and flatten both halves into disks. Wrap disks separately in plasticand toss in the fridge at least an hour or so.
4. To form the pie shell, roll the dough on a floured surface. Roll it a bit bigger than your pie pan to allow for the sides, loosen with a thin spatula and wrap around your rolling pin and carefully unroll into a 9-inch pie pan. Allow any excess to just hang hopefully about an inch or so.
5. Push gently into bottom and sides of pan.
6. Add your filling and repeat with the other crust. Crimp a rim with fingertips and knuckle to seal. This is a lost art, and I hope you can do a neater job than I can. Aesthetics aside make it reasonably tight so that your pie doesn't leak.

Bake your pie according the directions for the filling, maybe half an hour or so at 425. Watch as it browns. If baking empty (blind) for later filling, bake at 425 or 450 with pie weights or beans inside fro maybe 20 minutes, the remove the weights, poke the bottom with a fork in a few places, and bake for another 5 minutes or so until a nice golden brown.

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