All posts by Black Gold Rooster

From Garbage to Garden

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We have chosen to have a 100% organic garden without the use of fertilizers so composting is our natural alternative. Although it can take some time, it is one of the most nutrient rich ways to cultivate your garden. You can start to compost in the kitchen by saving common kitchen scraps. You are making healthy compost and reducing your waste at the same time. It’s a win win.

In the winter months, when there is no produce to harvest, we buy organic lettuce from the store. An organic spring mix (pic above) normally comes in a plastic bag inside of a plastic box. Once you take out the lettuce, this box becomes the perfect spot to store your kitchen compost scraps. I normally go through one box of lettuce a week during the colder months and stockpile the containers for when our current one gets gross. I keep this under the kitchen sink or on a shelf in the pantry until it is full and ready to be emptied (usually twice a week).

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Common kitchen scraps you can use for compost (cutting/crushing first will help them to breakdown faster):

  • All your vegetable and fruit waste, (including rinds and cores) even if they are gross and moldy. Corn cobs and husks. All leftover pulp from juicing.
  • Coffee grinds, tea bags and paper filters
  • Egg shells, crushed well
  • Most anything made with flour. Stale bread, cookies, crackers, pasta as long as they haven’t been mixed with meat, oils or dairy.

Things to leave out:

  • Meat, fish and bones
  • Dairy
  • Oils

Time to Find these seeds a home

Over the past week we have been moving our seeds started indoors, to the garden outside. Up until late April/early May, we were still getting frost overnight so we are hoping these fragile plants do ok.

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The soil we initially put in the boxes had settled well and turned a nice, rich black color.

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Greg uses small strips of wood to make a temporary layout. This ensures that each plant will have enough room to grow without taking over the one next to it.

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The process takes a while because each plant is still so young and delicate. Since they are still so tiny, using a shovel can damage the adjacent plants. In the picture above, Greg uses an alternative by digging the small holes with a teaspoon.

Homemade Compost Bins

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You can buy compost bins from your local home improvement store. They range in cost from $50-$300. Or you can build them and they’re completely free…woohoo! This is the first of many things Greg made from used palettes. Most commercial businesses will have a pile of these every week after receiving deliveries. They may keep a few, but the majority get thrown away. All we do is ask and most times they are happy that we are helping them get rid of their garbage.

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To make this bin he took three standard palettes and assembled them in a “U” shape using standard screws.  The slots that are already built in to the palettes are perfect for holding the rake you’ll need to turn your compost.

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The pic above shows two bins side by side.  We started with one and now we have four across. Greg will keep one bin empty to make it easier to rotate the compost from one bin to another. If you don’t have the space for that many bins, you can simply use one and rotate the soil within the bin.

We initially set these up in the far corner of the yard thinking that when the temperature rose we would smell anything that may be “composting”. It turns out the slots in the palette provide good enough air flow to allow the compost to properly decompose.

Sundried Tomato Pesto Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf

Last nights dinner. Oh my god, yum. This has become a weekly addition in our house; especially during the winter. Most of the time I will double the recipe to ensure that we have leftovers. I found this recipe online and have changed it a bit over time to work with what we have in the house. (Post photo has organic purple sweet potato mash and green beans in coconut oil with garlic).

  • Most of time I use 1lb grass-fed meat and 1lb chopped turkey so we have leftovers.
  • I only use sundried tomatoes when I have them, otherwise I will just make regular pesto or no pesto at all. The bacon still gives them a lot of flavor.

1/2 cup sundried tomato pesto, plus 1/4 cup for tops (see recipe below)

1 tablespoon chopped oregano

1 tablespoon chopped basil

1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup yellow onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound fresh grass-fed beef

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup almond flour

1 large egg

4 slices nitrate free bacon

Sundried Tomato Pesto

3 cloves garlic

1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes (in oil if you can, rehydrate per instructions if dried)

1/2 cup fresh spinach

1/2 cup fresh basil (a small bunch)

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Add the garlic, sun dried tomatoes, tomato paste and herbs to your food processor and blend. Stream in the olive oil until the pesto comes together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, beef, almond flour, pesto, herbs, salt, pepper, onion,and garlic. In a small separate bowl, whisk in the egg and add it to meat mixture. With your hands or a spoon, combine the mixture until well incorporated.

Form mixture into 4 equal rounds and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Wrap bacon strips around each meatloaf round. Top each round with additional sundried tomato pesto.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the meatloaf is cooked to desired doneness.

Makes 4 rounds

Garden Overhaul

Last year, we spent DAYS weeding the garden. Literal weekends were consumed with pulling weeds. Although we knew it would be a big task, we decided that when the weather became tolerably cold, we would start the whole garden from scratch. The picture below shows the garden last year.

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We started by removing all of the existing raised boxes and extended the garden area by about 50%. Next, we laid out long rolls of weed barrier. Someone at Greg’s job was throwing it out and it was a big money saver.

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We put all the old boxes back in but decided to try to keep a square shape to the garden compared to the mish mosh we had last year. Greg built a few new boxes (the lighter colored ones) out of scrap wood.

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As the weeks went on, Greg found more great wood pieces that were being thrown away by one company or another and brought them home. He added the too large boxes below after he drove by a company that had just had an enormous window delivered. They were throwing away the packing crate it came in; so he scooped it up. He added trellis to the back of the crates because he knew he would be planting cucumbers and tomatoes in there. The bamboo was added to beds that would house the beans and other sprawling plants. Once everything was finished, we added a combo of organic soil and compost to the boxes and organic black mulch to the walkways. Voila! A new garden.

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What’s up, Doc?

Greg planted a bunch of carrot seeds just when the summer started to cool down (beginning of September). We thought it would probably be too cold to grow them, but figured we would try since we’d never attempted it before. As the month went on we sprouted a ton of green carrot tops.
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We still thought there was no way carrots could be growing under there. Since I need to know everything about how everything thing works, I did some carrot googling.
A few interesting facts I found:
  • Don’t peel young carrots because much of the flavor is in the skin; the skin becomes bitter as carrots mature.
  • Raw carrot tops have a sharp, herbal, carrot flavor that mellows when cooked.
  • Over matured carrots are woody and less flavorful.
  • Harvested as very young plants, green carrot tops add a bright carrot flavor to salads and sandwiches.
  • Carrots are sweetened by the frost. AHA! We didn’t pull this batch until November 16 and it was plenty frosty by then; probably why they were so delicious.
I also learned that there are a bunch of different parts to a carrot. At the risk of bringing this back to 7th grade science, I bring you…..the carrot diagram.
Rootdiagram
I find this stuff so interesting. Once you start to grow your own food you become engrossed in every detail of it.
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The second and last pull produced 63 beautiful, crunchy carrots. I didn’t can any of them because you should only can carrots if you have a pressure canner. It takes the  higher temperatures of the pressure canner to kill the botulism bacteria. So, I went to back to good ole Google and tried to find some recipes I could crank out in bulk. Soups are the best, because you can double or triple the recipe and just freeze everything until you need it. This is the one I made.
Paleo Carrot Pottage (Pottage is a thick soup or stew made by boiling vegetables, grains and, if available, meat or fish. Pottage commonly consisted of various ingredients easily available to serfs and peasants and could be kept over the fire for a period of days, during which time some of it was eaten and more ingredients added.  Pottage consistently remained a staple of the poor man’s diet throughout most of the 9th-17th-century Europe. When people of higher economic rank, such as nobles, ate pottage, they would add more expensive ingredients such as meats. –thank you wiki)
  • 1 lb. carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 turnips, peeled and chopped
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ tsp. dried thyme
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp. fresh chives, minced
  • 2 tbsp. or coconut oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. In a big saucepan placed over a medium heat, cook the onion and garlic 5 minutes (or until softened) with the coconut oil.
  2. Add the carrots, sweet potato, turnip, thyme, bay leaves, chicken stock, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring everything to a boil; then reduce the heat to medium, cover, and let it simmer for 45 minutes (or until all the vegetables are soft).
  3. Discard the bay leaves (they have sharp edges that can cut the inside of your mouth).
  4. Puree the soup in a food processor until smooth. (If you have one, use an immersion blender instead-so much less mess)
  5. When you’re ready to enjoy the soup, return the puree to the saucepan and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  6. Garnish with fresh chives and serve.
Soooo good!! This was the first time I cooked with turnips and they brought such a deep, earthy flavor to this winter soup. It instantly made me want a big cast iron pot and a fire in the living room to cook it over. Enjoy!
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Indoor Seed Starting

It’s finally time to start our indoor seeds!! This winter is dragging on much longer than usual so we had to hold off a little longer than we normally would. This year we used a combination of seed packets from http://www.seedsnow.com, Lowe’s and our local Organic Farm. It is SO MUCH CHEAPER to start your plants from seed if you can find a little space indoors. For example, a package of organic green pepper seeds are $3.49. Each pack includes 25 seeds. Each seed will produce a plant that will grow multiple peppers. One organic pepper in the supermarket is $2.50. Even if each of your plants only yield two peppers…that is a $125.00 value!! It’s a no brainer.

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First, we set up a folding table in our spare room to hold the seed trays. Normally we use the Jiffy brand, plastic seed starting containers that we purchase from Lowe’s (you can re-use them every year).  This year, Greg rigged up a light holder made from scrap wood pieces. It was a very simple structure with two braces on the sides and a bar in the middle to mount the light chains.  We place all of our trays on this table directly underneath our grow light. You can rotate them daily if you feel certain trays aren’t getting enough direct light. (Seedlings will grow towards the light so try to center them as best as you can).

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We’ve had the best results with the Organic Burpee brand starting mix in the past, so we chose it again this year. One small bag is plenty for a few trays. Once you fill the trays,  use a pencil eraser to push a little indention into each seed container, then drop a seed or two in each one. Make sure and keep a list or diagram handy to write down what seeds you have placed where. Cover the seed holes back with soil and water well.

Normally we switch on the light when we get home from work and leave it on overnight, trying to mimic the sun they would receive outside on a typical day. Since these plants are normally very small and fragile when they sprout, you can use a spray bottle to water them (at least once a day). You’ll have to give it a few days to germinate before you see growth, so be patient. Most varieties will sprout within a week. Now we wait….

The Boys Are Back

Today is the Daytona 500. Racing is finally back. We had some people over to watch the race so I figured I’d try my hand at some Paleo appetizers. I made some pineapple guacamole with a few avocados, red onion, green onion, tomatoes, garlic, chopped pineapple and some salt & pepper. This was SO good and a nice change from your basic guacamole. Serve with celery or cucumber slices if you are trying to stay gluten free. We had some blue corn chips for the non-paleo folks.

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I also tried out the paleo biscuit recipe and made cocktail franks with nitrate-free mini sausages (from Costco). I wrapped some in uncured bacon without a biscuit because you can never have too much pork in one bite.

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They were so easy and so delicious.

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Boogity, boogity, boogity!!

Farm Fresh Tomatoes In February

Last season our tomato plants produced a total of 156 edible tomatoes. I’d say we had another 30-ish that were ruined by insects.  This was our most successful year yet. After two years of trying different locations in our yard we finally found the perfect space for the proper sun and shade.

I think the most influential thing on our garden this year, was the nutrient rich compost that Greg makes. We maintain our supply year-round by constantly rotating the compost (in our homemade compost bins) with the house scraps we save, and adding from our stockpile of leaves and grass clippings.

We also learned a valuable tomato lesson from a good friend. Pick the tomatoes when they are GREEN. Put them in a brown paper bag and store them in a cool, dark place. Check the tomatoes every few days and in a about a week they will be a beautiful red. The last two years we would wait and wait and then all of sudden they would turn and it was too late. Once they turned red and got sweet, we would have a problem with the bugs eating them.

This was one of the last tomato pulls we had of the season (October). All of these tomatoes were pulled green and turned using the brown bag method.

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In the beginning the flow was pretty steady and we would easily eat everything we picked on a weekly basis. As soon as the weather turned from warm to cool (Sept-Oct), I pulled 62 tomatoes in two weeks. I had to learn how to can…and fast.

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I found a few canning recipes online since this was my first time and experimented with two. (I had also watched a canning demo at the tomato festival this summer) One recipe was for crushed tomatoes and one was for a sauce. The crushed recipe was a lot quicker but now that we’ve been eating them I prefer the sauce recipe more. I think I needed to “wring” out the tomatoes a lot more before crushing them because those cans came out very watery. Below is a pic of the tomatoes cooking down to make the sauce recipe.

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The 62 tomatoes produced enough for 27 jars, half crushed, half sauce. I only have 6 left. It better warm up soon.