At Home in Nature

  (Agate, Colorado)
TwoInTents Blog
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Cacti blooming!

The cactus are in full bloom right now on the Eastern Plains, and what a good year for cactus flowers it is!  The prickly pears are especially having a good flower year, as they have larger and more prolific flowers than normal.  If you haven’t seen these beauties yet, don’t wait – cactus flowers don’t last long!

In a few short months, the flowers will have turned into wonderfully delicious fruits.  One of the best tasting wild foods in Elbert County, prickly pear fruits are normally ripe in October or November, depending on the weather.  They are very sweet!  Also called tunas, these fruits are usually used for making jelly, but can be used in many other recipes (try substituting them for berries in almost any recipe) or just eaten raw. 

If you can’t wait to try the fruit, or just want a seasonal treat for dinner, the cactus pads and flowers are both edible.  Watch out for spines (they are best removed carefully with a potato peeler).  There are many recipes for cactus pads, also called nopales, and are best to eat when they are young.  Cactus flower recipes are harder to find, and they are usually just used as an edible decoration by sprinkling the petals on salads or desserts. 

Are your children obese?

While every child loves fruit, most love vegetables if they are exposed to them a dozen times or more.  Vegetables are better foods for children than fruits, but the causes of obesity are numerous.  If you have trouble getting your children to eat their veggies, write to me - I have plenty of ideas, from having fun cooking adventures with them to making them pretty on the plate: apetites are increased by more than just sauces!

In the mean time, I read some scary statistics from the new book Ending the Food Fight, Guide Your Child to a Healthy Weight in a Fast Food/Fake Food World by David Ludwig, MD, PhD.  They speak for themselves:

 

* The percentage of overweight children ages six to 11 has doubled in the last 25 years.

 

* The percentage of overweight teens has tripled.

 

* One in three American children (30 million kids) are overweight today (and it is predicted that one in two — a full half of all children! — will be overweight by 2010).

 

* Pediatricians now treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, “adult” onset (type 2) diabetes, heart attacks, and sleep apnea in children.

 

* By the time overweight children are in their 20s, they can expect to be diagnosed with diseases that normally affect people in their 60s and 70s, including heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, and even amputations caused by complications from diabetes.

 

* Overweight children are discriminated against more than those in wheelchairs or with facial disfigurement.

 

* Childhood obesity affects the quality of life as much as a diagnosis of cancer does.

 

* Life expectancy is declining for the first time in human history.

 

* A typical child sees 10,000 junk food ads a year.

 

* Modern foods are made by food chemists, not grown by farmers.

 

* Neighborhood playgrounds, school physical education, and after-school programs have all declined dramatically — while junk food vending machines are now everywhere in schools.

 

* A Harvard study of 750 children from 10 to 15 years old found that kids who watched five hours of television or more a day (compared to those who watched two hours or less), had a FIVE-fold (500 percent) greater risk of being overweight.

 

* Sixty percent of all childhood obesity can be attributed to watching TV. For every hour of TV watched, weight increases by six pounds.

 

* Soda intake has increased 500 percent since the 1950s and now comprises 10 percent of all calories consumed by the average teenager.

 

* Among 500 middle school children, the risk of becoming obese increased 60 percent for every additional serving of sugar-sweetened drink per day.

 

* In a study of 3,000 children over 15 years, those eating fast food twice a week or more gained an extra 10 pounds. (One fast food meal can contain more than the all the calories the body needs for the entire day!)

 

Dr. Ludwig’s solutions are not too different from what we have been hearing for years, yet very few parents are following this basic common sense advice for healthy living.  It’s not too late to affect your family’s health for the better, but it may be too late if we don’t all do something soon.

 

 

Wildflower diary

The wildflowers are at their peak display right now as the world begins to prepare for the winter ahead.  You can preserve these colorful bits of summer by pressing them and preserving them in a botanical journal, homemade paper, potpourri, laminate them, or many other means of displaying them.

There are many tools for pressing flowers, and while I am sure they work well, none are so cheap as a big heavy book that you already own.  To press flowers with a book, first make sure it’s a book you won’t be wanting to read or use for several weeks.  Pick some flowers (more on this below).  Then place them between two paper towels.  You can skip the paper towels, but then you risk miscoloring the pages of the book or having the petals permanently stick to the book.  Carefully put the paper towel-flower sandwich in between the pages of the book so that you don’t bend or smash them.  You may need to put another heavy book or other weight on top of the book with the flowers in it to help them be flat.

When choosing flowers to press, you can sometimes press the whole thing and sometimes just the petals.  The thicker the flower, the harder it will be to press.  Whenever you think the flower may be too thick, you can simply remove the petals from the center and press them individually.  For example, snapdragons and violets can be pressed whole, but roses and daisies need to have their petals pressed individually.

Check on your flowers every week or so until they are fully dry.  If you don’t let them dry out all the way, they will likely get moldy in their display.

There are many ways you can display your flowers.  One fun and educational way is to make a botanical journal.  To do this, find a pretty blank journal to use, or make your own (you could even make your own paper).  Carefully glue each pressed flower onto every other page in the journal.  Then, around the glued flower and on the facing page, draw a sketch of the entire original plant it came from, describe the plant and identify what it is called, perhaps even write a poem or some thoughts about the plant or your adventures in finding it, or paste a photo of the plant.  Your journal can be quite a work of art!

Top crops for cheimcals

When you’re doing your grocery shopping next time, here’s a report you might want to consider.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has recently published its seventh annual “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce” which presents a list of the produce that has the most and least pesticide residue on it.  This does not mean that the produce on the list had the most or least pesticides applied, but rather tests the amount still on it by the time you are ready to eat it.  The point of the guide is to allow you to pick which fruits and vegetables you may want to consume in place of others while still getting your daily minimum fruits and vegetables for a healthy diet, NOT to discourage you from eating fruits and vegetables entirely!  It is important to note that all the produce, even the “worst” fruit of the list, still falls well below the safe levels set by the EPA, so all of the produce on the list had safe levels.

Here’s the report’s fndings, as published on walletpop.com:

 

The highest levels of pesticide residue -- and dubbed EWG's "Dirty Dozen" are:

1.Apples

2.Celery

3.Strawberries

4.Peaches

5.Spinach

6.Imported nectarines

7.Imported grapes

8.Sweet bell peppers

9.Potatoes

10.Blueberries

11.Lettuce

12.Kale/collard greens

 

The produce with lowest levels of pesticide residue as determined by the EWG, starting with what ranked the lowest, are:

1.Onions

2.Sweet Corn

3.Pineapples

4.Avocados

5.Asparagus

 

Debuting on the list this year is cilantro, which had not been previously tested by the USDA. The data showed 33 unapproved pesticides on 44% of the cilantro samples, which the EWG said was the highest percentage recorded on any items included in the guide since the data tracking started in 1995. Green onions (ranked No. 29), cranberries (No. 36) and mushrooms (No. 39) were also newcomers to the list.

Penning animals

Keeping your animals (or someone else’s) on the correct side of the fence can be quite a challenge.  Some kinds of animals are easier to fence in (or out), and some are very difficult.  Within a species, some individuals are more determined to escape and some are quite content to stay at home.  Keeping them fenced may require some effort and, for difficult critters, some thought.

Take these cows, for example.  Right now, they are only about a month old, fairly small and not very strong.  They have grass enough, but the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  Without precaution, they might slip through an opening or loose wire in a fence, or when they are older they may break a fence.  Cows don’t mind much about barbed wires, and will push them just them same as smooth wire.  Our solution? Tires in combination with barbed wire (we would have used regular smooth wire, but wanted to be using a “legal” fence according to state law, so that we would not be so liable if they get out).  Why?  They could push over the tires, or they could push through the wire.  With both, however, they can’t push hard on the tires because they have some fence in the way.  And they can’t push through the fence because there are tires on the other side.  Additionally, the tires prevent the cows from trying to reach through the fence to the grass on the other side: they can hardly see the grass, much less reach it. 

We have a similar fence for our goats, but instead of barbed wire we use strong mesh fence.  The goats are better at climbing the tires, even with wire in the way, and are small enough to climb through and around the wire and tires (as are sheep).  A good mesh fence that is tightly strung is hard for them to climb, and tires on the other side prevents them from bending the wire out of shape or pushing their way out from underneath the wire fence.  With horses we make a fence similar to the goats, or string lines of wire like with the cows but not barbed: barbed wire should never be used around horses.

In addition to the benefit of helping to keep your animals in their fence, tires are also good for providing a windbreak and shade.

Dragonfly watching

It’s dragonfly time again!  Though they look ferocious (hence their name), dragonflies are actually very harmless to people, and great for your garden and yard!  

Dragonflies are predators and eat lots of small bugs.  When they first hatch they live underwater and eat other underwater bugs, especially mosquito larvae.  In fact, they are one of the major predators of mosquito larvae.  However, they don’t reproduce as often or as quickly as mosquitos, so if when pesticides are applied to ponds to kill mosquitos, they kill the dragonflies too, but the mosquitos will return again quicker than the dragonflies will.

Once they are grown, the dragonflies continue to hunt other bugs.  Which bugs they eat depends on the species of dragonfly, but include small bugs like mosquitos and gnats to larger bugs like caterpillars, moths, etc.  There are even dragonflies that eat small mammals like frogs!

There are many species of dragonflies, and they are all fun to watch.  They are territorial, and sometimes will buzz you if you are in their space (but won’t attack you – don’t worry!).  Some fly around to patrol their space, and some find a favorite perch from which to keep an eye on everything in their territory.  If you want to find some dragonflies, the best place to look is near standing water, since that is where they reproduce and are most likely to hang out. 

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Le Menu (what's cookn'?)

NEWS FROM THE FARM AND RECIPES
Summertime is hot and everyone at the farm finds some shade midday.  The wild animals enjoy our tall grasses and wildspaces, our domestic animals enjoy their pens (except for Tom the rescue turkey who will stand in the hot sun or the freezing rain, gobbling and hissing at the weather like a fool until being encouraged inside where its nicer).  Midday it is very quiet indeed!
 
This week, the milkweed came into season and it is great in tea or as a fresh vegetable.  Try them with green pine cones, roses, strawberry leaves and thistles!  Yum!  Also, we have green fava beans!  Finally!  The tomatoes are still green on the vine and not ripening, but we will be patient a little longer.
 
LOOK FOR:
>>>> New items
> Old items
 
Give us a call or an email if you want samples!  Let us do the cooking...Prepared meals available.
 
-- GOODIES --
>>>> Seasonal Tea Mix
>>>> Seasonal Salad Mix
>>>> Seasonal Bouquets
> Edible flowers (Alfalfa, YUCCA)
> Olive Oil (imported from California - olives don't grow in Colorado, silly! We make sure there is no chemicals used, just like on our farm. It is very buttery oil, very sweet)
> Dates (imported from California - dates don't grow in Colorado any more than olives do, but they are worth the extra transportation. We ensure they are better than organic, too!  The season is not yet begun, but we run out quickly so please order early)
 > Sprouts - our own special method makes these tastier and more nutritious!
> Meat shares - from the Rev. Ronald Taylor's ranch.  These meats are from a neighbor of ours, he uses no hormones, and both grains and pastures the cows on natural feeds.  He raises holsteins.  If there is more beef than expected, you can either pay the difference or return to him what you did not pay for! 
     * 1/2 Beef Share: $800 down, $4 per pound, plus share of processing
     * 1/4 Beef Share: $400 down, $4.50 per pound, plus share of processing
     * 1/8 Beef Share:  $200 down, $5 per pound, plus share of processing
      * 1/16 Beef Share: $100 down, $5.25 per pound, plus share of processing
       * 1/32 Beef Share: $50 down, $5.50 per pound, plus share of processing
 
-- VEGETABLES --
> Bean Greens
> Dandelion (also a blood cleanser herb)
> Fava greens (eat like chard, beet greens or pea greens)
> Green Quinoa
>>>> Green Fava Beans
> Lambsquarter
> Lettuce
> Linden (leaves) (very sweet, sugar substitute)
> Radishes (ROOT, FRUIT)
> Salsify (leaves and roots and flowers)
> Sprouts (pea, bean, sunflower)
> Thistle (also a liver support herb)
 
-- BEANS --
  > Black
  > Fava
  > Jacob’s Cattle
  > Pinto
  > Trout
 
-- GRAIN --
  > Barley
  > Oats
  > Sanfoin
  > Safflower
  > Sunflower (SEED)
  > Rye
  > Wheat
 > Quinoa (GREEN)
 
-- HERBS --
  > Juniper (BERRIES)
  > Catmint
  >>>> Day Lillies (FLOWERS) try stuffing like squash flowers
  > Garlic (BABY)
  > Garlic (GREENS)
  > Garlic (WILD)
  > Garlic (SCAPES)
  >>>> Green pinecones (eat like corn on the cob or put in tea)
  > Onion flowers
  >>>> Rose (FLOWERS)
  >>>> Snapdragon (FLOWER)
  >>>> Strawberry (LEAVES)
 
-- MEDICINE AND TEA --
  > Aspen (LEAVES, BARK) (antiinflamatory, pain relief, fever treatment)
  > Flax (FLOWERS) (great tea!)
  > Milk Thistle (FLOWERS)
  >>>> Milk Weed (liver support)
  > Poplar (LEAVES, BUDS, ROOTS) (antiinflamatory, pain relief, fever treatment)
  > Pine (REALLY great tea!) (high in vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals - drink your vegetables per day!)
  > Willow (LEAVES, BUDS, ROOTS) (antiinflamatory, pain relief, fever treatment)
  >>>> Yarrow (FLOWERS, LEAVES) good for wounds, tasty in tea
  > Yucca (ROOT, FLOWERS)
 
-- ANIMAL FEEDS --
  > Two legs 
  > Four legs
  > Six legs
  > Eight legs (?!)  :::: )
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