Eating Stumptown

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And now for the cow portion of our tour…

In my last post, I talked about how the chickens at Full of Life Farm are raised on fresh pastures, closely following the cattle who were there just days ahead of them, eating grass and being cows.

Farmer Bernard showed us six cows that had been mowing down the grass in a paddock for that day.

He moves the cows daily, to make sure they are eating the grass at the peak of its growing cycle and not over-indulging so that the grass can continue to grow.

His process to get the cows to move to a new field was a little shocking.

He takes down the wire that separates the paddocks, walks over, and says, “Come cows.”

“Come cows!”

And just like that, they walk over and start eating.  I have met dogs worse trained than those cows.  They probably know that the good grass is just on the other side of the fence, so are always willing to try out a new field.

Speaking of the greener grass, throughout the tour Bernard kept asking us to compare the portion of the field where the chickens were roosting to the cows side.  Their farm land had previously been leased to a non-organic nursery.  Traditional farming often creates very little humus in the dirt and when it rains the ground doesn’t hold the water – instead creates muddy pools, useless to the growing grass. He referred to the chicken side as a “desert,” which I thought to be a little extreme, but you can definitely tell a difference. Take a look at a picture from that side…

And then again at this side…

The “cow side” has been in the cattle/chicken rotation for a year, the “chicken side” for only a few months.  It is dramatic how much healthier the grass is, no? He said by next summer the land will be replenished and lush, full of nitrogen rich droppings and the grazing-cow benefits.

For the final portion of the tour, we were shown a cattle dog demonstration.  These dogs were obsessed with getting the cattle to the right place.

And, you’d think since the cows are so big and the dogs are so small they would have a hard time getting those cows to go the right way, but no-sir.

The cows do whatever those dogs say.  “Oh, you want me to go this way now. Ok. Don’t fear Master Dog. I will do whatever you want.”  I wonder if the dogs could get the cows to do other things… Like my laundry and clean my kitchen!

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Based on how women talk about it, I think moving might be a little like childbirth.  You forget just how painful it is after a long enough time and think it might be fun to try it again.

Why would someone actually put themselves through this torture?  For the past week and a half, we have done nothing but clean, pack, unpack, and bump into things.

Plus, we learned something very important about how we are perceived by strangers.  I went to pay our deposit at the property managers and the owner came out to tell me was so excited we rented the place.  He went on to explain how the neighborhood attracted a lot of young applicants and once he saw our application, he was thrilled.  Thrilled!  That we are old!  And, to solidify the accusation, for a week we ate dinner every night at 4:30.  If you know Erik and I, this is very much out of the ordinary.  People usually complain about meeting us for our 8 or 9 pm dinner reservations. Granted, we ate again at 11, but 1st dinner was definitely octogenarian inspired.

Luckily, it no longer looks like the disaster above and I can actually walk from the front of the house to the kitchen without bruising my see-through skin.

Despite our recent agro-aging and tremendous amount of work still left to do on the house, we are both very happy about the move.  At the grocery store yesterday, I stopped by the fresh herb section – as I always do – and was about to pull down a baggie of thyme.

Then, I remembered what was in my backyard.

Growing straight out of the chef-planted garden. Can’t get much more local than that…

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My sister, Allison, told me the other day that she determines her mood based on a Yahtzee game.

Every morning, she plays an electronic game of Yahtzee and if she has a good game, she knows it is going to be a good day. If she has a game where she makes a bunch of mistakes, she figures she should be extra alert that day so she doesn’t screw anything up. And if the game smites her with terrible dice? Obviously, her day is full of bad luck and she might as well get started at being in a bad mood.

I would laugh at the Yahtzee Theory, but I have my own such rituals. If I see a hawk, perched on a pole or tree, I know that I am going to have a good day. No matter what mood I was in before, I am immediately happier. The other day, even, I was crossing a bridge and noticed one seagull sitting on each of the street lights – each either facing the bridge or the water, in a remarkably ordered pattern. Even though I had a headache and was running an annoying errand, I knew that I was lucky that day.

Apparently, Allison was telling her Yahtzee Theory to our other sister, Lindsay. She mentioned that she thinks that her mood may not be determined by the Yahtzee gods, but just on the fact that she decided what kind of day she would have before stepping foot outside of her house. (And millions of self-help books would probably agree.) So, from then on, she would just decide she would have a good day regardless of what the all-powerful Yahtzee game told her.

Lindsay tried this theory just the other day – she decided before leaving that today was going to be a good day and nothing could stop her from being in a good mood. Not the 4 inch puddle of melted snow she stepped in as she left her house, soaking her shoe. Definitely not that fact that she missed her train and was late to work. But, when she got a call from her landlord saying her apartment flooded, she gave in. Today, is in fact a BAD day. As she rushed home, she texted Allison to say her f*!@#g plan did not work. With dread, she opened her apartment door, expecting the worst – water pouring out her door, furniture ruined, her shoes soaked in inches of water. But, she walked in to find nothing. Everything was just as she left it, dry. Her landlord had confused her unit number with another tenant.

At the end of the day, she decided maybe it WAS a good day after all.

Now what this has to do with Asian stir fry, I don’t know… They just seemed related. Plus, I thought a story might distract you from the fact that I used snow peas from California and rice noodles from god knows where.

Oh, and the fresh ginger I bought? Came from Hawaii. The stupid winter is killing me! I want my CSA box already…

The one thing I DID NOT buy was the garlic at New Seasons – from Argentina. Super close, right? I found some at City Market the next day from California.

Regardless, the dish was yum-town. It had some nice GREEN things in it, which will keep away the scurvy I would get if I would only eat locally (with my poor planning). Plus, I used the leftovers to make a wrap which I will highlight soon. A wrap that included a homemade peanut sauce – yum.

Having a reason to make peanut sauce means it is, indeed, a good day.

Asian Pork Stir Fry

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One of the veggies frequenting my local shelves as of late are leeks. You will have better luck recognizing these gems if you cook a lot of soups, as they are often included to add a subtle onion flavor and chewy texture.

I like using them better than onions in soups because they don’t have that translucent, slimy nature that onions acquire, but tend to keep a fibrous crunch.

Plus, they are good for you!  One leek (3.5 ounces, raw) contains 45% of your daily Vitamin K, 20% Vitamin C, and 18% Vitamin B6.

I must admit, when I first started cooking with them, I was a bit apprehensive.  What do I do with this foreign vegetable?  Every recipe I have ever seen calls for only the light green and white parts.  Meaning, you cut off the root and the dark green end.

The first real warning I received was to be sure you wash them thouroughly because they have tons of hidden dirt.  You know how spinach sometimes needs a couple washings to get the grit out?  That’s nothing compared to leeks.  Each of the tightly-packed, onion-y layers gathers dirt and there are a couple of tricks to not have it end up in your food.

One way is to halve the leek lengthwise and run the layers under cold water, separating and ensuring that each layer runs clear.  Then, place the leek in a bowl of water, letting all the grit sink to the bottom of the bowl. This works fine, but sometimes the layers come apart and it makes chopping a bit more cumbersome.

If your recipe calls for chopped leeks, there is a different method.  You can halve the leek and then slice as you would with any vegetable.

See? I told you those suckers were dirty…

After they are chopped like this, you can throw them in a bowl of cold water, stir them around a few times to break up the layers, and drain. It felt like this saved me a step and a precious 30 seconds to a minute of my day.

And I am all about efficiency.

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Hi there millions of followers. Miss me? I have been a little distracted lately, sorry for not posting. But, have no fear, over the weekend I made a couple of great dishes to share with you.

Before an actual posting though, I have a confession. I have been waning in my motivation for locavorism. The farmers’ market has the same old things and I am kind of sick of them. Sure, I love mushrooms, but I can’t eat them every day. And squash? Apparently, I don’t even like it that much because I avoid the gourds sitting on my counter. In fact, I don’t even think my brain allows my eyes to even see them.

I wish it were the season of strawberries, crisp red leaf lettuce, and fresh, crunchy green beans.

To top it off, I have caved recently and bought some things I shouldn’t. The rows of heirloom oranges, tangerines and lemons have been singing to me at the store, “Buuuyyyyy meeeee!” I can not resist their sweet songs… Or juicy innards.

Oh, and at dinner the other day, I ordered a salad that had a fresh tomato on it. The light red wedge was practically tasteless, but I had to stop myself from running to the store and buying a whole bushel of them.

Whew. I feel a bit better! Thanks for listening… Next year at this time, with the summer crops canned and frozen, things are going to be different! (I hope.)

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Those who know me, definitely know this one thing.  I am short.  For reals short.  Sometimes people don’t notice it at first, but inevitably at some point in our relationship they will exclaim, “Damn, you are SHORT!”

Thanks. As if I don’t have a complex already.  (Just a little one.)

I dream of owning a house where everything is my sized: counter tops at my waist level, toilets where my feet don’t hang four inches off the ground, and cupboards I can actually reach.

This is me reaching for the spice cabinet at Erik’s.  See how far I can reach? I am fully pressed against the stove – which, with my luck is a fire waiting to happen or first degree burn situation.

In case you didn’t believe the first picture.  Look!  I can hardly reach, yo.  Typically, when I want to make a recipe I read through all the ingredients to see which spices I need.  Then, if Erik isn’t around, I grab an ottoman which is at best unstable and pray I don’t break a bone.  If Erik is there, he prefers to get the spices for me – I think his motives are less altruistic and more likely so he doesn’t have to do any off-hours doctoring.

The other day, I showed up at Erik’s and he told me he bought me something.

*Angels singing*

He made me test it before we could take off the stickers.

That was in the second to last row and I wasn’t even on my tippy-toes.

If I break something this year, it will not be due to the spice shelf.  Making my world safer one square foot at a time…

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