Thursday, December 3, 2009

Making stock using chicken feet

My college aged daughter is in home for the break and has been struck with a nasty upper respiratory infection.  Being the nice mama that I am, I decided to make some chicken soup for her to make her feel better.  However, it wasn't going to be just your ordinary chicken soup, it was going to be made from stock made from chicken feet.  According to Sally Fallon author of "Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats" Jewish folklore states that there is a medicinal quality associated with stock made from chicken feet and other chicken parts, and science supports it.  That's why it's called "Jewish Penicillin". Apparently, the gelatinous texture of the reduced chicken parts renders the nutrients better able to be absorbed by the body.  Plus, it just tastes heavenly.
Even though I raise chickens they were still using their feet at the moment, so I went to Hiller's Market to buy the feet.  I had seen them packaged next to the turkeys and always wondered who purchased them. Hiller's is known for their excellent customer service and one of the meat cutters actually came out to answer my myriad of questions. My query was answered that it was only the professional personal chefs who purchased them. That was a good enough answer for me!
I searched on line for a recipe and used this one.
Tonight I'll be using this stock which will actually be a demi-glace to make chicken noodle soup.The stock will be so concentrated that it will resemble a gelatinous goo. I'll take one part stock to three parts water and  will make the broth that will be the base for the soup.  I'll be adding some left over turkey from Thanksgiving (so it's not technically chicken soup, but turkey will do, carrots  onion and celery.  I'll also add some German noodles. I'll serve it with some crusty bread that JJ baked.  We all will be nourished and, hopefully, Janie will feel better.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Farm and Garden Design Class: I'm So Excited!

I am so excited!  I'll be taking an on-line Farm and Garden Design class with two of my homesteading/farming/sustainable living gurus Sharon Astyk  and Aaron Newton.  They have recently collaborated on the book A Nation of Farmers.  This book discusses how our current industrialized food system is directly involved with the food crisis.  The basic premise is that in order to guarantee one's food future one needs to become adept at self-sustaining farming.  Whether one farms an apartment balcony or one farms 10 acres we all need to take a vital role in our own food acquisition.  The online course will cover all kinds of things from garden design based on your own growing area through plot  and soil preparation, small livestock, container gardening, vertical gardening, making money... It's going to be great because all those questions that have been running around in my head during this last growing season will now get dealt with.  With an acre to work with I vacillate between growing just for myself and my family or do I think bigger, like starting a CSA or sell at farmer's markets?  Those who know me know I sold many of my salad greens at the Wixom Farmer's Market during the summer.  It was a great experience.  I loved it.  But I  the work was a little too much for me.  Remember, I'm a one woman farm.  My husband, JJ, helps me when he can, and my children will take care of the chickens to an extent, but  have no desire to become vegetable farmers.  So, most of the time, the job falls soley in my lap.  How to make the best of an acre with limited manpower is the question.
As a reader of Astyk's blog Casaubon's Book, my eyes have been opened to the disconnect we have with our food.  If the grocery store closed tomorrow, would you be able to survive on your own know-how?  Would you count on the government?  (Think Hurricane Katrina!) Or would you be able to count on yourself?  Coming times don't look too promising.  With the decrease in  availability through limited reserves or expense  it is time for us to look at food attainment without the use of fossil fuels.  Growing one's own makes sense in that fuel miles are eliminated . The only energy used is the energy needed to walk to the garden and pick something for dinner.  What I like best about growing my own food is the feeling of empowerment and the reconnection of the earth.  I am forced to eat seasonably and locally.  I am more connected to the ebb and flow of nature's cycles.  It puts me in my place as to who is really in charge.
Check out Astyk's book and blog and you may find your thinking changed as well!

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Substistance Farming Project

My first season at subsistence farming was met with some successes and some disappointments, albeit , I'm glad I even got to this point as most times I will think a project to death and never launch it.
My definite victory was the actual acquiring of the chickens.  Recall I pre-ordered 6 chicks for JJ's birthday last December and now we are up to 11 chickens. There were some roosters that needed to be taken back to Destiny Farm, yet we came back with a replacement hen or two!  We now have 3 (for sure) layers so that means we are getting about 3 eggs a day!  Which is plenty for us, but we definitely welcome more!  What progress I have made.  Never would I have dreamed that I would be so intimately involved with my avian friends.  So far so good.  It has been fairly easy.  I'm just waiting for the day when I actually have to administer some type of chicken first aid or something.  But as a free-rangers, I know their lifestyle is most conducive to a healthy bird.  I'll just keep doing what I've been doing and deal with the obstacles are they arise.  Raising birds in cold weather will be my next learning curve, but I'm ready for it.  As an animal lover, I have to constantly remind myself that life on the farm can be cruel.  I will be dealing with death as well as life.  Any day I could be faced with remnants of a predator's attack.  Or a bird that froze during the night. I'll have to remove the emotion from it...I'm sure that's easier said than done.
Next, the gardens...
Bear in mind that I originally wanted just to grow food for us to eat, but got caught up in wanting to grow for market.  No problem with either of those paths, but I think I need to be focused with either one or the other.  Trying to do too much has been my downfall.  So, for next growing season, I will stick to growing for our consumption only.  If I start to vear off my path,  remind me, please, with a gentle kick in the pants.

100 sq.ft tomatoes (includes roma, cherry and slicing tomatoes)
50 sq ft. zucchini
24 sq green beans
500 sq ft various greens (lettuce, spinach, swiss chard,kale,bok choi)
50 sq. ft zucchini

8 1/2 pints of jam (mulberry/raspberry mix)
4 pints of  strawberry jam (Long's U-Pick)
10 quarts of raw pack tomatoes
2 quarts pickled zucchini
2 jars of preserved cherry toms (one in vinegar and one in oil)
1 pint of pesto

Goals for next season:
500 sq feet of wheat
500 sq feet of potatoes
100 sq. feet of green beans
50 sq. feet winter squash
25 ft. zucchini
50 sq. feet pickles
50 sq. feet sunflowers (chicken feed)
Not sure about the quantity of the next  few items:

2 fruit trees
1 nut tree
2 berry plants

That's all I can think of right now...I'll continue tomorrow.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Vegetarian Crock Pot Chili

I woke up this morning and felt a little nip in the air. Mind you, the temperature is in the 60's and it rained last night. But I feel fall is just around the corner! Where did the summer go? Anyway, I felt like making it easy today and got dinner going right after I got up. So when dinner time hits everything will be ready! Yes! Chili just seemed apropos but I wanted chili with a twist. Enter vegetarian crock pot chili. It's loaded with summer vegetables including zucchini which I always can find a use for. I found this recipe at Allrecipes, one of my favorite cooking websites. You can find the recipe here. I'll serve this with a nice crusty bread and some fresh fruit for dessert and all will be good!
If you are counting WW points then it's only 2 points.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Eggs: Pastured, Organic, Cage-Free...What Does It Mean?

As many of you know, our hens have recently started laying. Yay! An average hen will lay one egg about every 25 hours. So, with 2 of our 11 hens laying daily we can enjoy a fresh egg just about every day! But what is all the excitement about, I mean an egg is an egg, right? Well no, an egg isn't an egg. There are many different factors involved. .
When you shop in the grocery store you will see a variety of egg choices and (prices). There are conventional eggs (usually the least expensive), as well as cage-free, organic, etc.. Let's look at what these terms mean.
Conventional eggs: These are your standard run-of -the mill eggs. Usually coming from what some call "factory farms".These eggs are usally featured as loss leaders at .88 a dozen. Wow! A bargain! But what you don't know is how the hens laying those eggs are treated. Generally, hens are crammed into large windowless huts where they are do not have access to the outdoors. They are usually fed a diet that is loaded with antibiotics to stave off any disease or illness associated with living in such close quarters. The diet is usually corn based which is subsidized, hence very inexpensive to provide. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
discusses these very conditions. This book is a "must-read" for those curious about the inner workings of the origins of our food.
Organic eggs come from chickens that are fed a diet of organic feed, meaning no pesticides, insecticides or fungicides may be used. Also, there may be no GMO products or animal by-products used in their feed. Usually, organic is linked with "free-range" chickens. According to the USDA, in order for a farmer to claim his chickens are free-range chickens, they need to be able to reach the outdoors. However, the chickens don't actually HAVE to go outdoors. The opportunity just has to be present. Also, the area outside can be on grass, dirt or even concrete. The next time you are near a chicken farm, take note of the ground material outside of the pens. It will be highly unlikely that you will see green, green grass beneath the chickens' feet. And that's if you see any chickens outside the facility at all.
Pasture raised chickens are what is usually associated with farmers who raise small flocks of chickens. Small flocks are usually under 100 chickens. Chickens are naturally vegetarians, so for a company to claim their chickens are fed a vegetarian diet is praying on the naivete' of those not familiar with the nature of chickens. Chickens pasture-raised are allowed to walk around on either grass or soil looking for small bugs, bits of vegetation to meet their nutritional needs. Scratching the ground is a vital part of a chicken's make-up and should be provided to allow for a happy bird. Usually, as a safeguard, additional feed is provided as a means to make sure the chickens are receiving their recommended nutritional requirements. Bugs and grubs and even little toads are a necessary element to a chickens diet, which provide proteins to produce a superior egg. A superior egg has many different qualities. The first thing one may notice upon cracking open a pastured egg is the color. Instead of yellow, the yolk is usually a deep orange. Instead of spreading out in the frying pan, the pastured egg will be more compact, it's borders more defined. But what's even better is the nutritional value. According to LocalHarvest pastured eggs have 10% less fat, 40% more vitamin A and 34% less cholesterol than factory farms. The very best thing is the taste! A deep, rich taste that tells you right away that this is what an egg should taste like.
So, consider yourself enlightened! Now when entering the marketplace whether it be a supermarket or farmer's market, or maybe even your own "backyard market", you will have the tools to make an intelligent decision about the eggs you choose. After all, an egg isn't just an egg.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Spinach Frittata

I made a wonderful dinner tonight using what was in the garden and what was left over in the fridge. Also, with our chickens laying regularly now I had a bunch of eggs that needed to be used: hence, Spinach Frittata.
A frittata is an Italian omelette. It's usually made with eggs,veggies, meat and cheese. However, it's baked in the oven as opposed to preparing it on the stovetop. I find it fairly easy and you can make it as simple or complex as you'd like.
Tonight's frittata consisted of spinach, from the garden, and roasted potatoes, from last night's dinner, with some shredded parmesan.
Without getting too "formal" here is what I did: Took an oven-proof skillet and sauted some garlic and green onions in a little bit of olive oil. Next I added the roasted potatoes and spinach from the garden. I'd say about a cup of each. Let them cook for a bit to wilt the spinach and heat up the potatoes. Meanwhile I took 8 eggs and beat them in a mixing bowl and then added some salt, pepper and little hot sauce. Finally, I added the eggs to veggie mixture, stirred them then popped the skillet into a 400 degree F. oven and baked them for about 30-40 minutes. After the eggs were set, I took the skillet out of the oven and sprinkled some grated parmesan cheese on top. Cut the frittata into 8ths and serve straight from the skillet. That's it! Very easy and very easy to customize!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Baseball Bat Zucchini!

I have zucchini coming out of my ears...and who doesn't at this time of year. I always recommend growing zukes to new gardeners because the vegetable is fairly forgiving if you make a mistake or two (watering irregularly, not amending soil etc...) and rewards the gardener prolifically. The trick is to not let your zukes get any bigger than about 6-7". Any bigger than that and taste quality suffers. Actually, I prefer my zucchini to be on the rather small side with the blossom still attached which can be floured and fried in a little butter. Yum!!! Sometimes even missing one day of harvesting can land you with a huge baseball-bat of a squash. When I come across one of those I automatically allocate it for making zucchini bread/muffins. Save those little green gems for when you want a zucchini at it's flavorful peak!
Below you'll find a wonderful recipe for zucchini bread. Zucchini bread is a "quick bread" so you don't have to worry about kneading and rising and all that. I got it from 'The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook". Enjoy!

Bagley House
Zucchini Lemon Muffins

2 Cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 T baking powder
1 tsp. salt
grated peel of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup (or more) chopped walnuts
1/2 cup (or more) raisins
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c milk
1/3 c vegetable oil
1 cup (packed) shredded zucchini
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon peel in a large bowl. Stir in the walnuts and raisins.

In a smaller bowl (or a two-cup liquid measure), combine the eggs, milk and oil.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Stir just until barely combined and then gently fold in the zucchini.

Spoon the batter in a greased, 12-cup muffin tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the muffins spring back when you press them with your fingertips.

These freeze well!!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Why Eating Locally is Good For Your Health

In a previous post I had sited the economic benefits of eating locally. And when I refer to "eating locally" I am referring to eating withing a 100 mile radius of your location. However, there are health benefits that can be gleaned as well. The benefits are not always obvious, less direct.
My sons and I visited the nearby farmers' market this past weekend. Knowing that, for Michigan, harvest time for many vegetables won't be happening for a few weeks from now. We were there to acquaint ourselves with some of the farmers as and what kinds of produce they were growing.
First of all, to be doing something outside with my 12 y/o and 16 y/o on a beautiful Saturday afternoon is priceless. Never mind the promise of going out to lunch and a trip to the feed store to get some new chicks. We we were doing something together! As for a psychological boost, I could have thrown my Prozac away forever. Somehow shopping the farmers' market was just a little more cool than shopping the local grocery store. Characters abound! Smiles on faces! It was an "experience". To top it off, a woman was giving away free kittens in the parking lot, something that caught the eye of my boys. (That will be another post!) How cool was that?
In a month or two when more and more Michigan produce will be available, freshness will what's key. There is no data to suggest that an apple from Washington state is any less nutritious than the one grown right here in Oakland County Michigan. However, because it wasn't transported here a vast distance the carbon emissions were lessened. Significantly. Thereby, less pollution for everyone to breath. Clean air is a health benefit, right? Additionally, because much of the produce will be picked less than 24 hours from point of sale trace minerals will be still be evident. Additionally, the taste will be different. Nothing compares to a Michigan strawberry picked fresh in June to ones found in the supermarket in January from California. This week market the appearance of some early Michigan strawberries. Delicious they were! The natural sweetness was intoxicating! If you could replace a naturally sweet fruit over a calorie laden, high fat confection your waistline would reward you! Without trying, you could be consuming your daily 5 of fruits and vegetables. Remember eating your 5-A-Day provides you with beneficial vitamins and minerals, added fiber and antioxidants and can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and some cancers. Plus, you will LOOK great!
So make sure to visit you local farmers market this season. You will be helping a farmer, Michigan's economy and yourself in one! Think of it as a necessary routine to good health. There are farmers markets popping up everywhere. To find a local market check out Local Harvest at

Friday, June 5, 2009

Life (and Death) with Chicks

We had to return our rooster, Rambo, as the crowing wouldn't be tolerated in Westacres. So, instead of trading out one chicken we came home with three 4 week old chicks! I would have never guessed that I would be coming home with three little balls of fluff that stole all our hearts. We got two Barred Rocks (Madeline and Audrey) and an Araucana (Amelie).
When we left with our chicks we were educated about how to handle the inevitable pecking which would occur with our current flock. The term "pecking order" originates from the hierarchy system that flocks, especially chickens, form with their flock mates. It is an agreement among the flock members who is the rule of the roost. Who eats first, gets the best perch, lays in the best nesting box is all determined how high up the social ladder one is. "As long is there is no blood", was the guideline I was to follow as to how much pecking is allowed until human intervention.
Sure enough, every time I introduced the three chicks to the flock pecking from the older birds would ensue. Nothing seemed too vicious, although enough to cause a cry of pain or fear. Most of the day, though, they spent time together in the cat carrier, separated from the others.
Four days later, the smaller Barred Rock, Madeline, showed listlessness, but no previous warning. By night she would be dead. The next morning, after a perky awakening and feeding I turned around to find her sister, Audrey, dead as well. We were heartbroken. What had gone wrong? I had called the breeder of the chicks to get some answers, but all she supplied was the possibility that they got too cold. Maybe it was the vigorous pecking, or maybe they had an undetected illness prior to us receiving them. Anyway, I was determined not to lose our last girl, Amelie.
Because we got the chicks as babies ,they had immediately associated us as their "mothers". Now Amilie was the only child. I wasn't sure if she felt more insecure without her chick sisters or if I was being over attentive, afraid I'd lose her too. Anyway, it got to the point where I couldn't leave Amelie without her pleading to be let out of her box and she would start bashing around the crate and injuring herself. Alas, she got her way! So for a day I was at the beck and call of this 6 oz. princess.
When I would take her out of the crate she'd immediately attempt to climb my leg to get to my shoulder so that she could nestle in my hair. When I would put her down and walk away she was right at my heels following me in the garden, foraging for bugs and seeds and whatever else she could find. However, in her desire to be near me working was close to impossible, so I'd settle for sitting with her in the sunshine watching her scurry from one thing to the next.
At bedtime, she showed no letting up of her carrying on when put in the crate. She had even caused a bleeding injury on her beak trying to hop out of the box. In desperation, and feeling a little fed up with my little fluffy friend, I marched out into the coop and snatched up the most laid back hen we have, Paulie Walnuts. I plopped her into the crate with the little yellow one and in a few moments Amelie's pleas were lessened and eventually, a gentle cooing was heard. I peeked in and Paulie had Amelie cozily nestled beneath her breast. There was no pecking, probably because the two pullets were on neutral ground, just the calming sounds of two sleeping birds.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

5 Blogs and Webites that Inspire Me!

Creating this blog has been a means of self-expression for me. I wanted to put down in words my thoughts and ideas of why eating locally grown food is so important to me without sounding preachy or judgemental. My goal was to enlighten others that there is a different way to feed ourselves and society. One just needs to think out of the box a bit. Little did I know that I would receive feedback from my readers that they indeed have heard my message and are also inspired. To say that I am surprised as well as flattered is an understatement!
Inspiration didn't come out of thin air. I knew there had to be a different way, and thanks to the internet it isn't hard to find like-minded people. I'd like to introduce you to some blogs and websites that have inspired me to begin this journey. Food can identify a culture, but the way the food is acquired and enjoyed defines it. Take a look at these sites, maybe you'll understand how I have been influenced.

  1. is a site that puts into words what eating "slow foods" is all about. Think of it as the antithesis of "fast food". Probably the most all encompassing of all the sites.
  2. site is huge and can be a bit confusing with all it's twists and turns, but you'll get the idea. There is also a Youtube video that I'd recommend you watch. Their ideas may be considered a bit radical, especially for the average "joe",but you can take away knowledge that you can apply to your own life.
  3. blog is written by my friend Emily. She is from Ann Arbor, she definitely knows her stuff! Look for inspiration to eating what is growing NOW in Michigan. She inspired me to have a totally local Thanksgiving last November where everything (OK, most everything) I served was from a local source. Look for a link to where she talks and teaches of disappearing food preparation and preserving practices.
  4. Michigan farmer who actually shows how to butcher chickens. I'm not sure where my chicken ownership will lead me...I just wanted them for the eggs. However,if my mind changes and I'd like to use them for meat I can just open up my laptop and use her step-by-step guide.
  5. gal is a homesteader who doesn't gloss over any of the details or hardships for that matter. I also like the picture at the top of her blog...kind of explains the life I aspire to.
I'm interested to know which sites you liked and what you learned from them. Please don't hesitate to leave me a comment. Take care everyone! Happy Spring!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Michigan Spinach!

This was dinner tonight
Spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and anchovies
Michigan spinach steamed in lemon juice/olive oil and water
Homemade "no-knead" bread with butter

A wonderful meal, albeit one reeks of garlic for the next few days. So be it! At least I won't have to worry about any vampires wanting to kiss me!

A Month With Chickens...Things I've Learned

When I had ordered my 6 chicks last December I had no idea what I was in for as a chicken owner. All I knew was that as a locavore I wanted to make sure that I was receiving the freshest eggs possible. I also wanted to make sure my eggs came from happy chickens living the way a chicken was meant to live. No battery hen eggs for me! I had read book after book, article after article, but I knew that none of this information would mean anything unless I had actually applied it in real life and, horrors of horrors, made some mistakes!
First: Chickens are very easy to raise! I mean you need to provide adequate shelter to keep them safe from the elements and predators, but other than that, there is very little upkeep. Every morning I let them out of their coop with a cheerful "Good Morning, Girls!" and a bowlful of feed and a dispenser full of fresh water for the day. They will be content all day until they return to their coop for bedtime. I just close and lock the coop and they are fine until morning.
Another thing is that chickens poop. A lot. Everywhere. However, this was one of the reasons I wanted them in the first place. Chicken manure is a vital component for rich garden soil. It must be composted first as it's too "hot" to be put directly on your plants. Anyway, there is no shortage to finding chicken poop, because they do it their own food, in their water bowl,in their sleeping area, on the roof of the just sort of falls out of them wherever they are. But it's a good thing! When I add the composted manure to my plants it will provide the necessary nutrients of nitrogen, potassium and potash for good plant health as well as organic matter that helps to rebuild the soil...something commercial fertilizers can't do.
Chickens are wonderful natural pest controllers. My lawn in plagued by grubs, hence I have moles and skunks who dig at my lawn (which will one day be replaced with growing vegetables). But, grubs are on the chickens menu of delicacies. When I free-range my chickens they can pick an area free of offending grubs just by their scratching and rooting for those juicy morsels. As the seasons progresses there will be other pests that the chickens will send packing.
Owning chickens has also contributed to building self-esteem in my children. My two boys love to take care of the chickens and when my daughter comes home from college I know she will too. In addition to building responsibility,owning chickens can contribute to one's "cool factor". I have noticed on various occasions the boys bragging about owning chickens and the wonders said ownership provides. They have become the talk of the neighborhood and occasionally I find a schoolmate in the backyard looking in on the chickens in their pen, enthralled with being close to an animal not usually seen in the suburbs.
It's an ongoing process and I am still very new to it, having chickens has proven to be not only easy, but rewarding as well. We are still in our "honeymoon" phase of chicken ownership, and know that there will times that provide challenges or difficult decisions will be made. But that is down the road a bit..right now I'll just say that owning chickens has been one of the smartest things I've ever done in a while!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Four Ways To Become A "Locavore"

    Locavore: n A person who attempts to eat only food that is grown locally.

  1. Tear Up Your Lawn-Manicured lawns evolved out of the Industrial Revolution. They were status symbols implying that the owner of the estate had money to spare. Lawns can be expensive and time consuming to maintain through fertilizing, watering and mowing. Why not grow something that can be just as beautiful, but will sustain you and your family as well?
  2. Shop Beyond The Supermarket-If you aren't up to growing your own then think of buying from the farmer's market, joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) or frequenting a local farm where you pick your own produce. Your money is kept in the local economy thereby making it stronger. You will have piece of mind because you will know where your food originated. Carbon emissions are greatly reduced because food miles are nearly non-existent, thus it's good for the environment.
  3. Break Bread-A forgotten tradition of a leisurely and relaxing meal together can be key to establishing and maintaining healthy relationships with our families and neighbors. Take time. Perpetuate the enjoyment of a coveted family recipe. Make it from scratch. Use real plates, glasses and silverware. Use cloth napkins. Have meaningful conversations. Consider mealtime as a ritual. Your digestive system and possibly your waistline will thank you!
  4. Learn Old Time Cooking Skills-Do you know how to can, freeze and dry the excess bounty for enjoyment when it isn't in season or readily available? Do you know how to make homemade bread or yogurt? What about maintaining a root cellar? How about foraging? The next time the power goes out and everyone is flooding the local supermarket in a panic, you'll be glad you do!
If you can pick just one of these locavore-minded ways to adapt into your lifestyle your family, community and environment will benefit greatly! Additionally your health will improve and your sense of empowerment will be immeasurable for you are in control of how you sustain yourself and your loved ones. Isn't that enough of a motivation? Come on. Give it a try!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

When $10 Leads to $37 Million

As a proponent of supporting Michigan's economy as well as buying local produce, it's encouraging to hear of others who feel the same way. Mary-Jelisse Bonello, compiled a list of Michigan -made products and then e-mailed the list to everyone she knew. The motivation for doing this was to encourage others to support Michigan's economy. She had read that if every household spends just $10 of their groceries weekly from Michigan sources it would result in $36 million dollars being recirculated through Michigan's economy.

"That was powerful to me. Every day I hear people bemoan the state of Michigan's economy and here was a simple and impactful thing that each of us could do to help.

"I contacted a woman named Jeanne Lipe at the Michigan Agritourist Department who confirmed that the numbers were correct (actually they claim $37 million per week), and gave me some leads to get started on what has turned into this email today.

I wanted an easy to use list of Michigan products that I could find at my local grocery store. I have attached a copy of that list to this email. It is in no way complete, but it will get you off to a good start if you should choose to help out.

Some things I learned along the way: There are a lot of Michigan owned grocery stores that are supporting other Michigan businesses on their shelves. Spartan stores are a cooperative; this means that if you buy a Michigan made product from a Spartan affiliated grocery store, you are getting a "triple dip". The product is made in Michigan, the grocery store is independently owned by a Michigan family, and the Spartan Stores headquarters is located in Grand Rapids. Other independently owned stores are a "double dip". This includes stores like Randazzo's and Westborn markets. Meijer is based in Grand Rapids, so also counts as a double dip.

I also found a whole bunch of products that are not mass distributed, but are available online and in some specialty food shops. I have added them on a second sheet. There are some great treats and gift items there.

I am not one to send bulk emails or encourage you to send them on, but I am making an exception to that rule today. If you think this idea is a good one, and you have friends and family throughout the state who might help out, please forward this email with the lists attached on to them. $36 Million per week could go a long way!

By putting it that way, it makes it seem rather easy. So I have attached her list. Note: This list is by no means complete. This is just a starting point."

The lists are below. Forward the list to everyone you know who would like to help Michigan's economy. Then, clip out the list, post it on your refrigerator and the next time you shop, challenge yourself to use a product from our home state, Michigan! You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Farming Influences

I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, but spent my summers with my great grandmother in Bolt , W. Virginia. Bolt was a tiny "unincorporated" town in Raleigh County. "Myrt" raised my mother after my grandmother (Myrt's dauther)died of tuberculosis at the age of 33. It was a study in simple living. Church, family and community were the focus of the day. Nobody worried about what college to go to or what career to persue because it was already decided for yout. You grew up, married your childhood sweetheart, lived in a mobile home and either made a welcoming home for a growing family or worked in the coal mine.
. My average summer day would entail Myrt, my mother and I walking a dirt road a short way to Aunt Elsie's farm, Elsie was Myrt's sister. It was a picturesque place where lowing cows greeted you as you made your way down the road toward the farm. The smell of the Appalachian mountains in the spring and summer is indescribable. It is fresh, and intoxicating, tinged with the fragrant perfume of wild rhododendron and queen Anne's lace.
Once on the farm, we would find Elsie sitting in her cozy kitchen with a wooden churn between her legs, beating milk into butter . She would hold an engaging conversation to the three of us without missing a beat. Her arms were strong and she would churn the milk effortlessly. I remember thinking they looked a lot like my dad's. It wouldn't be until I was older and actually churned some milk that I realized how difficult and tiring the chore could be.
Covering ever flat surface of her farmhouse kitchen were endless canning jars filled with tomatoes, beans, peaches, beets, and more from the summer before. This was what was going to sustain Elsie and her husband, Miner, for the next year. She was a stereotypical strong farm woman. I admired her .
We would make our way into Elsie's kitchen garden where Myrt her own section. My mother and I would help her harvest her vegetables such as beans , corn and tomatoes. We'd each don a wide brimmed sunhat to keep away the sun's rays off the back of our necks. Bent over in rows, with harvesting trugs at our feet, we probably resembled share croppers or plantation workers from a bygone era.
Back at Myrt's we would begin the daily ritual of preparing a meal based on what we harvested from the garden that day. Green beans, slow-cooked all day in a bath of water and pork fat was the centerpiece of the meal supplemented by some home baked bread, slices of juicy tomatoes, pickles, served with a small serving of either chicken or ham. If anyone could bottle the image of contentedness, security and love, this is what it would look like.
Once back in Michigan, my mother would tend to our backyard garden similarly to the way Myrt tended hers. Beans and tomatoes were always the trusty members of the plot but some "exotics" too, such zucchini and leaf lettuce. Ingrained in me was the comfort of the garden that the first thing I did when I came home from college in the later part of the harvesting season, was to make myself a sandwich of fresh sliced tomatoes with Miracle Whip, leaf lettuce and white bread. The hothouse tomatoes of the university cafeteria just couldn't compete with those of our garden
Once I became a mother, it was important for me to carry on this love of the garden to my children. I would plant fun, living play structures, such as sunflower houses: sunflowers, grown with pole beans which provided a living play structure. Neighbor children would engage in endless hours of imaginary play involving the sunflower houses. Additonally, we would also have a few rows of tomatoes and cucumbers as well as zucchini that sometimes, in neglect, grew to the size of baseball bats much to the delilight of my children who would find ways to smash the oversized squash on various surfaces or engage in mock sword fights .
Hopefully, my children will retain those memories of playing, working and eating the garden as warm and sensory-filled. If they grow up to be gardeners too, then I guess, I have done my job as a parent.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hello Neighbor!

I'm on a mission. With Michigan being in the straights it is with our fledgling economy something's gotta give.Michigan is known as the automobile capital in the world, yet that can't be the only thing that defines us. Of course, we have the wonderful Great Lakes, seemingly endless miles of beautiful shoreline, and Motown. However, there is a plethora of delicious food both grown and manufactured in Michigan. Whether it is food that is grown in backyard gardens or farms, created in kitchens or featured in restaurants there is no reason we have to buy anything beyond our state borders. It is all here. We just have to change our mindset about what to eat..
When you are shopping at the local supermarket, ask yourself: Was it grown here? How many Michigan citizens did it employ? Is the food in season? With that in mind. What would your refrigerator and pantry look like?
For example: My 'fridge has food from these Michigan companies: Bareman's (milk), Dairy Fresh (butter and cheese), Hamilton Eggs. I don't buy orange juice because oranges aren't grown here. Not like I never buy OJ, it's just that when I have to make a conscious purchasing choice; I can live without it. My pantry features Michigan food companies such as,Velvet Peanut Butter,Michigan Black Beans and of course, Kellogg's cereals. Take a look in your pantry. How many of your staples can be replaced by Michigan products?