Life, Faith and Urban Farming

The life and happenings of an unconventional pastor and urban farmer living in the city with a family of five.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Half Marathon

It's been a lot of fun and a great challenge to begin running. Last April I went out for a 2 mile slow jog with walking mixed in. It was the first time I'd run in a very long time, and I've never stuck with it before. This time I did. It's August 30th and I'm still running. I went out today in the city run with my dog, Emma, again for a six miler. So far seven is my longest run. I'm still pretty slow, usually averaging between 9 and 10 minutes per mile, or slower. I'm trying not to let that bother me. I love the people who run and have no idea how fast or slow they run, they really don't care, all they care about is enjoying the run. I'm competitive, usually with myself, so I'm always wondering if I'm getting any better. A couple weeks ago I decided to do my first race, a half marathon in the middle of nowhere. I have about six weeks to work up to a 13.1 mile run. My main concern is that I not hurt my feet or achilles tendons trying to up my miles. If I do, no big deal, I'll wait until the spring to do a race. Running has been a beautiful thing for me. It's connected me with an old friend, I've run the trails I loved as a child in North Park, I've gotten in much better shape, and I'm just happy when I'm out running.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Camping and Running

Once upon a time I did a lot of backpacking and camping. It was my escape to nature and from the busy world. Over the past seven years I've had little time to be in the woods. For a while I blamed being a dad. That ended when I took Teah on her first backpacking trip and she loved it. She's begged me to go again for months - I haven't made the time. I plan to change that. Last week, thanks to my friend Cornelius, we got a free 6 person tent, ready for the whole family! He found it in a dumpster outside REI! This past weekend was my 35th birthday. I was home alone. The family took a 4 day vacation. Another sign that I let my work and in ability to manage my work get the better of me and my family, but that's for another post. I couldn't be away for four or five days at this point in the summer, but I could get away for one night. Being home alone let me try something I've been wanting to try for months. Emma (German Shepherd) and I packed up and walking into the woods on Sunday night. We had driven out to the Laurel Highlands to Bear Run Nature Reserve. One of my favorite places. The next morning my friend Rob met us on the trail and we trail ran/fast hiked about seven miles. It was a great experience. I've been running a lot in the city, but trail running is what I love. Emma did great, she's a much better runner when she's off leash! I'm hoping to take the whole family camping in the same area very soon. We'll set up a base camp after hiking in a couple miles. I could go for trail runs, the kids could play in the streams near our site, should be a good time.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Monsanto's Bt GMO corn to be sold at Wal-Mart with no indication it is genetically modified

GMO corn has been grown and fed to livestock for years now. But now we'll be eating it directly ourselves. Walmart would probably cave if there was enough public outcry against Monsanto. Monsanto's Bt GMO corn to be sold at Wal-Mart with no indication it is genetically modified

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Letter from Alyssa on Food

Below is a letter that my wife Alyssa wrote to a close friend wanting to know how she feeds our family on our tight budget. These are great tips on eating better!

1. Eat local as often as possible. Anything grown close to you will usually cost less. I say usually because farmer's markets, etc. are oftenmuch cheaper when things are in season and bought close to the source. You're not paying for the transportation. However, if you buy something not technically in season locally you're no going to save much. Because of the work involved to grow it or produce it. Leads to the second point....

2. Eat in season. This is hard for me. I WANT strawberries in February, darn it! But realistically? it's not great! They don't have flavor because they've been shipped so far and picked before they are ripe in order to ship. It's cyclical and leads back to eating locally. I really believe that is key - eating locally and in season. The combo is what makes things doable.

3. Plan for the future. (all year!) You know this from your brother - and they know more than I do! can, freeze, do anything you can to put away that local and in-season stuff. Then you can have it all year! Make jam, can applesauce (easy, easy to do with NO sweetener and my kids love it all winter long), can apple butter, tomatoes, sauce, salsa. Don't take on too much your first year or so because it's easy to get overhwhelmed. I'm not a huge fan of pickled stuff, but John loves it. He and his mom pickle beets, cauliflower, cucumbers, etc. and can those too. Buy good root vegetables in the fall and store them in your basement. You'll be surprised how long they last!!

4. Invest in a chest freezer. You're thinking - how does this save money? it doesn't initially. But it does in the long run. When you're sick of canning or just don't have time you freeze. We go berry picking every year, get a TON of berries (all types... starts with strawberries in May/June!) and freeze them. I can give you tips of easy ways to freeze them so you don't just have lump of strawberries in a bag too. I use them all year in healthy smoothies, baking, etc. I love to freeze broccoli, spinach and green beans (all blanched first then shocked in ice water). I use those all winter too. You can get all these things to freeze and can from your own backyard and from farmer's around you. Sometimes you can get tomatoes for sauce and just canning plain tomatoes SUPER cheap if you're willing to deal with bruises and bad spots. And really, who cares about that? you're going to can it!

5. Going off of the chest freezer - buy your meat by the animal. I'm serious. It will cost a bit up front and you may have to pick what meat you're willing to eat. For example, a whole chicken? totally affordable. Even organic/free-range. A whole pig? expensive! We just got ours this weekend - for $300. Initially it stinks (money-wise) But my freezer is now full of different cuts of meat, bacon, sausage, loins, ribs. I have a whole fridge full of lard! (for soap making and cooking with). I probably won't buy anymore meat until next year. I may get some cuts of beef, but only for special treats. You save so much over the long haul doing this. And you get the benefit of the whole animal (chicken stock!). You're also, again, supporting your local farmers. You can usually get a 1/2 pig, 1/4 cow, etc. too. Just look into what's around you.

6. Buy in bulk. Find stores that will sell things in bulk. Or have a bulk foods section. I buy dry beans in bulk, cook them up in large batches (with chicken stock from our chickens!) and freeze them. Then I pull them out a few days ahead for meals. Oatmeal, flour, beans, coffee, tea, grains, quinoa, lentils... they are all great for you and totally affordable in bulk. By the package? they add up quickly!

7. Do the work! I'm reading a book called Radical Homemakers. It's not a Christian book - but it really speaks to the our need for "quick" meals and always rushing around and how it has taken so much away from the family and our health and our food. If you're willing to cook your beans from dry opposed to buying cans of beans you're going to save money in the long run. If you're willing to cook down your chicken carcass - you're going to save money instead of buying chicken stock from the store. Canning your own sauce in the summer saves tons of money over buying jarred sauce at the store. (Boy it tastes better too!) Make a couple loaves of bread at the beginning of the week - stick one in the freezer for later that week or next week and use one immediately. You know every ingredient in your bread then and it is so much more affordable.

There's my spiel! I hope it helps some. I love talking about this stuff - feel free to ask more or question some things too!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Wet Brine Bacon at home!

Some of us went to Lamppost Farm this weekend to get our year's worth of pig. We did everything from necessary from field to table. Here's a video showing how to wet brine your own bacon!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Organic Farmers Take Monsanto to Court by April Dávila — YES! Magazine

Organic Farmers Take Monsanto to Court by April Dávila — YES! Magazine

This is an article from Pat about the trial against Monsanto by Organic farmers.

Just Food Fast - Milk

Milk is a big deal. Those of you going vegan can just avoid it for Lent, or for ever. Those of us who love milk will be happy to know that Pittsburgh has some great small farms and even smallish dairies that do great work. All these milks are available at the East End Food Co-op or at Whole Foods. One is a local, grass-fed, raw milk. Natural by Nature is pasteurized, but is grass fed and delicious. Turner is affordable and mostly grass fed, according to their marketing guy who I talked to a few years back. And Seven Stars Farm is a certified organic farm that does yogurt, it's really good!

All these products are whole milk, whole yogurt, or real half and half. The fats of grass fed cows, either in their meat or in their milk, is high in CLA, conjugated linoleic acid, which is very good for you. Its a long chain fatty acid that actually helps your body regulate and lower high cholesterol. It's also a more even balance between Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats. People who have heart problems are told to take Fish Oil pills to get Omega 3's, or they can eat a steak or drink milk if it's from grass fed cows!!!Milk from grass fed cows is also high in vitamins that are not present to the same levels as conventional milk.

For breakfast this morning I had Seven Stars yogurt with some Ezekiel Sprouted Grain cereal, not local but organic and very good. I finished it off with a little local honey bought from the bulk section at the co-op.

Soon I'll post a bunch more about the really remarkable benefits for the environment and biodiversity that a grass based farm brings.