Blogs for June, 2013
checkout the archived city farm blog articles to learn about our takes on farm & city life
checkout the archived city farm blog articles to learn about our takes on farm & city life
Sometimes there is nothing better than to watch a talented bartender craft the perfect mojito, gently crushing the mint to release the right amount of flavor. If you’re lucky, a mortar & pestle is involved, making you feel you’re handed a beneficial elixir from an apothecary of yore. In Biblical references, an apothecary referred to the holy oils and ointments prepared by priests properly qualified for this office.
There’s also nothing better than serving the perfectly mixed mojito, with no elbow-grease involved. When you’re hosting your next summer soiree, consider anointing your guests with the City Farm’s lovely Island Mojito Mix. Just add your favorite white rum.
According to Wikipedia, Cuba is one of the theorized origins of the mojito. “One story traces the mojito to a similar 19th century drink known as “El Draque,” after Francis Drake. In 1586, after his successful raid at Cartagena de Indias, Drake’s ships sailed towards Havana but there was an epidemic of dysentery and scurvy on board. It was known that the local South American Indians had remedies for various tropical illnesses; so a small boarding party went ashore on Cuba and came back with ingredients for a medicine which was effective. The ingredients were aguardiente de caña (a crude form of rum, translates as fire water from sugar cane) added with local tropical ingredients; lime, sugarcane juice and mint. Drinking lime juice in itself would have been a great help in staving off scurvy and dysentery.”
Probably best to avoid discussion of scurvy at your summer soiree, but “fire water” is sure to create some great post-party stories, and it wouldn’t hurt to add a little Cuban flair to the party. Check out Saveur’s Cuban recipes for your next mojito party.
Bonus: Your City Farm Island Mojito Mix (and any others you order – there’s a delicious Strawberry Blush Margarita Mix, a Melon Mist Daiquiri Mix, and more!) come beautifully packaged, so you can also give them as gifts.
Cheers to backyard summer soirees!
(Mojito photo credit: Martie Knows Parties)
For many years Studio Animal Services supplied the cows for the numerous and humorous California Cheese commercials. They were always fun jobs. We nearly always shot up in central California around the area of Petaluma. There’s a slightly better chance of green-er grass up there compared to down here where it tends to be dry and crispy!
We would truck up there in convoy, horse trailers full of cows and horses and sometimes we had adorable calfs for a few of the spots.
A lot of the times the cows just had to stand there. sometimes they had to run and sometimes…they stood on my foot! Not advisable by the way. It bloody hurts!
How to make a cow run. Have a bucket of grain. Look silly while running. Don’t fall over. Don’t be the slowest runner, always be in front of the guy with the grain. Ha!
“When you see a garden, you see a culture,” Vera Gordon, who visits the world’s horticultural wonders, explains in a Travel & Leisure piece. “Through the formality or informality (of the landscaping), or the plants a country has chosen to import and show off, you see how it wants to be seen.”
What does your plot of land say about you? Do you plant only your favorite flowers? Are they untamed and wild, or well-groomed and orderly? If a stranger were to visit your garden, would they learn more about the gardener?
How does your garden grow? Have you unknowingly planted your birth month’s flower? June babies are represented by the rose, which, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, has as many meanings as there are colors: the red rose says “I love you,” a white rose signifies innocence, while the yellow rose denotes jealousy. (Reading this, I’m even more confused by the jumble of rose colors from that boyfriend, years ago.)
July boasts two flowers, the larkspur and the water lily. Depending on the color of the larkspur, you might be growing a happy nature (white) or fickleness (pink). The water lily packs quite the punch, standing for purity and majesty.
What is your birth month flower? Roses are notoriously difficult, but with the right choice, you can change up the mood of your garden with their meaningful colors. Take a look at Sunset’s six disease-resistant roses (I’m partial to the Julia Child variety, but perhaps that’s because it makes me think of cooking and butter). Back to flowers! If you’re a July baby and want to plant larkspur, wait a bit, as it is best planted from seed in spring or fall.
“It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.” ~ Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
For me, food is fun. Avocados, a new favorite of mine have also become subject to my food experimentation’s. I use them in smoothies (right? Forget the Kale—an avocado still makes your smoothie green, and it tastes a lot better. Don’t get me wrong—Kale absolutely has its place in my cookbook.) baked goods, puddings, soups, salads, sauces, ice cream— it’s safe to say they’re perfect on their own; too.
There are few things better than a ripe avocado; but there’s nothing worse than needing your green goddess to ripen in the next day when it’s as hard as a rock. This of course, usually happens when I have the spare 10 minutes to scramble the ingredients before I jolt out the door.
If you find yourself in this dilemma where you need to speed up the ripening process (via Vivian Tran’s article in XYZ magazine):
1) If you have 24 hours: Place avocados in a brown paper bag with a banana, then leave the bag on a sunny windowsill for 18-24 hours. Together the banana and avocados release a large amount of ethylene gas which can quicken ripening.
2) If you have less than 24 hours: Place two peeled pitted avocados in a blender with 1 cup of peas (fresh, frozen, or thawed) and pulse until smooth. The peas will help soften the consistency of the unripe avocados but won’t affect the flavor.
Now, it’s your turn to become a ripening wizard with these simple tricks. Enjoy!
Photo Credit: BringJoy.com, Start Baby On Solids.com
Twenty years ago, on a Christmas morning just after we’d moved into our new house, my neighbor rang our doorbell. With a greeting of “Merry Christmas,” she handed me an orange coffeecake which had been baked in a bundt pan. I said, “thank you,” and we chatted a moment. My husband and I ate the coffeecake for breakfast. We were delirious. It was the most delicious thing we had ever tasted.
And thus began my ordeal. Later that day I knocked on her door to say how amazing the cake was and I asked for the recipe. She said it was an old family secret and she couldn’t give it to me, but anytime I wanted the cake I could ask her and she would make one for me. Right…like I would actually ask her to bake a cake for us.
So the hunt was on. I searched new and used bookstores for cookbooks. Whenever I traveled I’d seek out local bookstores for any community cookbooks. I’d check the index for orange coffee cake, orange rolls, orange bread. I’m a pretty good baker myself, so I was able to eliminate the recipes I knew didn’t fit the bill. If I came across one I wasn’t sure of, I would buy the cookbook and make the recipe. I did this for several years with no luck, and then the internet happened…a whole new way to search. For fifteen years I scoured the internet. I printed out dozens of recipes and made them all. Zip. Zero. Nada.
And then a couple of months ago I was browsing Pinterest for new recipes. The moment I saw the photo I knew I had found it. I made the coffeecake the following day. Eureka! It was just like I remembered it. Scrumptious! The recipe is from a blog called Southern Sweet and Salty. The writer of the blog is a woman named Julie.
It’s a yeast cake, so it takes a little time to prepare…but your time will be well spent!
Glazed Orange Pull-Apart Bread
2-3/4 c all-purpose flour + 2 tbs
1/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c milk
1/2 stick unsalted butter (2 oz)
1 (1/4 oz) envelope active dry yeast
1/4 c water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 orange, about 2 tbs
2 eggs, beaten
1 c light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Zest of 1 orange, about 2 tbs
1/2 stick + 2 tbs unsalted butter, melted
1-1/2 c powdered sugar
1 tbs orange liqueur
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbs fresh orange juice
Whisk together 2 cups of flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. In a small saucepan, melt the butter into the milk. In a small bowl, mix the zest, water, and vanilla extract. When butter has melted, add the contents of the saucepan to the bowl. When mixture is between 110º & 115º, add yeast. Whisk and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
Add yeast to flour mixture and stir to combine. Add the eggs and stir until eggs are incorporated. Add the remaining 3/4 c of flour and stir until you have a dough that is slightly sticky to the touch. If dough is too loose, add flour a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. Lightly grease the bowl the dough was mixed in with vegetable oil and turn dough in the bowl to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean dish towel and allow to rise until the dough has doubled in size, about an hour.
When dough has risen, punch it down. Knead the 2 tablespoons of flour into the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Allow the dough to rest five minutes. In the meantime, stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon to break up any big lumps of sugar. Stir in the orange zest. Roll dough out to a 20″x12″ rectangle. Pour the melted butter over the dough and spread to the edges. Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture over the butter and lightly press down. Cut the dough vertically into 6 even slices. Stack the slices on top of each other and cut again into six pieces. Lightly grease a 9×5 loaf pan. Place the dough stacks in the pan with the edges up. Cover and allow to rise until doubled in size again, about 45 minutes. Heat oven to 350º while dough rises. Uncover the pan and bake 30-35 minutes or until deeply golden brown on top. Let bread cool in the pan 15-20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and invert bread onto a plate. Invert again so that it’s right-side up. Using your hands should do the trick.
Assemble the glaze. Whisk together the powdered sugar, liqueur, vanilla extract, and orange juice in a small bowl until smooth. When bread has cooled, pour glaze over bread, making sure to get the creases. Serve at room temperature with tea or coffee and enjoy!
Today is the day to indulge! Internal guilt comes to a halt, flies out the window and new purchase bliss overcomes all hesitation. Can we make this moment last forever? Well, we can make it last for at least today, June 18—National Splurge Day!
Whether you splurge on yourself, your family, guests, or home, let the thought of National Splurge Day take any glimmer of apprehension away. It is your time to treat yourself. After all, once in a while balances the frugal moments, right? I call it the equilibrium of expending.
Splurge on something from our farm, to your home; the Edith the Cow Creamer set ($175). Named fondly after one of City Farm’s very own, this pewter cow and pail creamer set measures 7 inches long, 5 inches wide and 4.5 inches high. Take delight in this kitchen accessory to give your morning coffee a special taste. This set captures our importance to slow down and enjoy. Morning musings over a cup of coffee, with a touch of cream take us back to our simple roots. Giving you what is ours, that is now yours.
Simply click the ‘buy now’ button to give Edith a spot in your kitchen! Enjoy~
House & pet-sitting for a friend this last weekend, I was even more aware of the flora growing in a new neighborhood. Walking their wee white Maltipoo, we stopped often: he pulled at the leash, eager to tree a squirrel, I paused mid-step to smell the lavender, to take photos of the foliage. Being in new surroundings offers a sense of discovery, reminding us to pay attention to the ordinary, to the plants and views that regular walkers of the block might pass by.
“If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden.” –Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Paying close attention, especially along our routine, well-worn paths, we can open our eyes to secret gardens we’ve never seen before: to discover the beauty in the weeds, to take time to clear space for something to flourish in the overgrown, crowded space near the sidewalk.
What would you plant in a corner of your garden, to remind you to pay attention? I love lavender. Not just for the smell, but it looks a little wild, a little untamed, even in the most groomed garden. At the same time, it always seems quite proper to me, perhaps because I associate it with English gardens and thus the kind of tea parties where women wear hats.
Despite my clearly scientific ideas about the plant, an online search landed me at LavenderFarm, where I learned that ‘the ‘English’ lavender varieties were not locally developed in England but rather introduced in the 1600s, right around the time the first lavender plants were making their way to the Americas.”
According to MindBodyGreen, lavender is the only essential oil you need, an aid in everything from a minor burn or bee sting to dandruff. And as many know, it adds flavor to baked goods, goat cheese, teas, salad dressings, and more. How do you use lavender to flavor your food?
Take a look at GrowOrganic to learn about planting your own lavender. They recommend the English variety as the most hardy, fragrant, and tasty, and note that “All lavenders require full sun, good drainage and alkaline soil. If your soil tends toward acid clay then one-quarter of the total planting soil should be compost, along with a small amount of gravel to assist drainage. If bought as a plant, the lavender should be sited on a mound or slope so that excess water runs off. Water weekly in the first summer, and then every three weeks in following summers.”
Another purply, fun fact from LavenderFarm? It “was grown in so-called ‘infirmarian’s gardens’ in monasteries, along with many other medicinal herbs. According to the German nun Hildegard of Bingen, who lived from 1098-1179, lavender ‘water, –a decoction of vodka, gin, or brandy mixed with lavender–is great for migraine headaches.”
I feel a migraine coming on, don’t you?
(Photos from my walk in Silver Lake / Los Feliz)
One of my favorite childhood memories is driving the two hours from Eugene to Portland, Oregon, to visit both sets of my grandparents, who lived just blocks apart. We’d stay at my Grandma Mai’s house in the St. John’s district, where they had an extra room. The house where “teasy” grandpa always had a joke and a thermos of fresh coffee on the table, and my grandmother would send us out to their overgrown backyard garden to pick fresh blueberries. Stepping over Aspen, the outdoor cat, we would bring in our harvest, wash them, and eat them from a bowl in the center of the kitchen table. They were the sweetest blueberries I’ve ever tasted.
Later, my first summer job was in a blueberry field outside Portland, working with two other 15 year old girls, soon to be life-long friends, sorting and packaging buckets of freshly picked blue fruit, listening to tape cassettes on a boom-box, shielded from the sun by a plastic tarp.
According to HGTV’s Website, “Blueberries are typically grown in humid, northern climates that have winter chills, mild summers,” (Hello, Portland, Oregon!) “and low-pH or acidic soils, conditions that limit their range.” They love full sun, as well! “But many new varieties are available for lower chill areas, very warm areas, as well as coastal areas. The blueberry now has an enormous range.”
If you don’t live in this blueberry-idyllic climate, try container planting, to control the soil. “Acidity is critical,” growing guru Ed Laivo says. “A mix of peat, bark and an acid soil mix will help to provide everything the blueberry plant needs immediately after you plant it.”
What berries will grow in your backyard? If you live in California, check out the University of California’s Garden Web to determine what will flourish in your region. The Farmer’s Almanac claims the blueberry is the easiest fruit to grow, and gives tips your region. When it comes to attackers, the biggest threat is the bird, picking away at your bounty as it ripens. The Almanac recommends bird netting, or, as my grandparents obviously knew, a kitty like Aspen will keep their feathered friends from eating your crop.
The Pioneer Woman has a scrumptious recipe for a salad with grilled chicken, feta, fresh corn, and blueberries. What is your favorite way to add a little blue to your summer? Leave a comment here, or tweet: @TheCityFarm & @RebeccaSnavely
I love finding new places to stop for a cup of coffee and an afternoon snack. Here are two of my most recent discoveries.
Blackmarket Bakery at The Camp 2937 Bristol St. Costa Mesa, CA 92626
They make a variety of grilled cheese sandwiches. My favorite is the one with mushrooms and onions on seeded sour dough bread. Yummy! And my go-to bakery treat is their flourless chocolate cookie. I don’t know how they do it. These cookies are amazing. I keep them in my freezer at all times in case of a chocolate emergency. Fifteen seconds in the microwave and presto…emergency handled. They also make amazing blueberry muffins and out-of-this-world scones.
Sweetsalt Food Shop 10218 Riverside Dr Los Angeles, CA 91602
I recently discovered this cute place in Toluca Lake…just east of Studio City. Their flower flavored macaroons are delicious, not overpowering like others I have had. There is just a hint of rose or lavender in the sweet, airy gems that melt in your mouth. Enjoy!
It wasn’t so much the sound of the swarm, as I couldn’t hear the persistent buzz of bees in my closed-off, closed-out box of an apartment. It was the movement that caught my eye, a dark swarm of over 100 bees moving in a slow cyclone outside my window, fascinating and a little frightening. I had just read Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Secret Life of Bees,” so I knew I was to show them love. Easier to do from the safe haven inside my home.
“I hadn’t been out to the hives before, so to start off she gave me a lesson in what she called ‘bee yard etiquette’. She reminded me that the world was really one bee yard, and the same rules work fine in both places. Don’t be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you. Still, don’t be an idiot; wear long sleeves and pants. Don’t swat. Don’t even think about swatting. If you feel angry, whistle. Anger agitates while whistling melts a bee’s temper. Act like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t. Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved.” – The Secret Life of Bees
It was recently Bee Week this past May, hosted by Whole Foods and Modern Farmer (MF). As MF noted, “almond groves, apple orchards, pumpkin fields – all require pollination from bees in order to bear fruit. Starting in 2006, beekeepers across North America and Europe began reporting that anywhere from 30 to 90 percent of their hives were dying off.”
If you’ve contemplated bringing the bees back by donning long sleeves and keeping your own hives, check out MF’s piece on which bee is right for you. But if you simply want to show bees how much you love them by growing the green that attracts them to your hood, encouraging pollination and backyard bee life in general, take a look at The Daily Green’s list of bee-friendly plants. They recommend you choose as many native plants as possible.
My favorite bee-friendly flower? Sunflowers in a wild or tame garden: tall, rangy, happy looking plants, they seem to take on a life of their own, beaming and radiant. Their colors are so bee-ish, it seems the perfect fit. Not surprisingly, sunflowers need full sun, and they like long, hot summers to flower best. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, “plant the large seeds no more than 1 inch deep and 4 to 6 inches apart in well-dug, loose soil after it has thoroughly warmed, from mid-April to late May. …Water plants deeply but infrequently to encourage deep rooting.”
Read more at the Farmer’s Almanac on how to harvest your seeds, and prevent critters from attacking your crop. What plants best bring all the bees to your yard? Leave a comment here, or tell us on Twitter: @RebeccaSnavely & @TheCityFarm. And speaking of the benefits of bees, check out the City Farm’s Avocado Honey! Happy Planting!
Photo credit: MarielHemingway.com
Make sure you call the airline and check the availability. Most airlines have a limit as to how many animals they fly per plane (in the hold and in the cabin).
First of all if you have a small dog and can get your dog in the cabin in a bag do it! Get the bag weeks in advance or even better months, and carry your dog places so he gets used to it. When you book your flight, get a window seat so you don’t have people climbing over you and him mid flight. Even though the sherpa bags claim to fit under the seat, unless you have a 6 pound poodle, and you are in first class they very rarely do…you just kinda push the first bit of the bag under and that works fine, the rest of it will be sticking out, put a blanket over your lap and let it drape down, no-one will ever know that the bag isn’t all the way under the seat. Also a lot of times aisle seats have a box of some kind (probably electronic stuff for the TV in the back of the seat in front of you) under the seat in front of you, so this is another reason to get a window seat.
Just be prepared not to have a huge carry-on along with your dog in a bag, as it all gets a little crazy carrying everything. I just flew back from Mexico City with a 17lb Pekingese under the seat and let me tell you he got heavy after a while! Hopefully you have got your dog used to being in a bag before you fly. When you are on the flight you want him to settle down and go to sleep…If you keep opening the bag to check on him every five minutes, you will create a fussy dog who is probably more anxious than calm. You don’t need to administer water every half hour either – your dog will survive a 5 hour flight just fine without, the least amount of interaction with your dog (or cat) during the flight, the better behaved he will be for that flight and future flights. I used to fly everywhere with Gidget the Taco Bell dog – 99% of the time people had no idea I had a dog in a bag under the seat, she had no expectations of getting out of the bag, so she was quite prepared to hunker down and go to sleep.
Flying your dog in cargo requires a few more steps. Sometimes you will check your dog at the check in counter, other times you will have to drive to cargo and do the check in there…it all depends on the airline and whether you will be on the flight or not. Please be prepared and allow extra time when flying your dog through cargo – it is usually in a completely different section of the airport. There are restrictions for flying in the winter and flying in the summer, so be aware of these ahead of time so you are not in for any surprises. Also, book a direct flight if at all possible, having to change planes just adds the worry that your pet will not make the connecting flight and you end up at the final destination and your pet does not.
If you have to fly your dog in the hold, Get a plastic Vari Kennel as they seem the strongest. Again, purchase the crate ahead of time and have your dog sleep in it at night and for short periods of time during the day. The main reason flying a studio dog in a crate does not stress out the dog is because they are used to being in a crate…Whether its in the home, in the car, in a van or on the set. If its Winter, outfit it with a nice thick plush bed that he can sink into the middle of. If its summer do not put anything thick or plush – if for some reason he gets too hot you want him to be able to push aside the bedding so he can lay on the cooler plastic – the equivalent of a tile floor if you were at home…Attach the plastic crate cups, but don’t put anything in them. It spills within the first 10 minutes after they leave you and who wants a wet Frenchie? Write in magic marker on the front/top of the crate “DO NOT OPEN” and “DO NOT FEED/ON SPECIAL DIET”. Also write this on the paperwork they have you fill out at check in. You will always have someone who thinks the dog looks starving and gives it food, unless you have this written on the front – trust me, before I did this, my cats or dogs would arrive with strange looking food in the cups. Your dog can go without food or water for most domestic flights, its better than a wet dog bed. For international flights you have to be a bit more creative. I fashion a non spill water bowl that attaches to the crate, but that’s a whole other story! You could purchase the thicker plastic, screw in cups (like in the picture above) and freeze water in them if you like, but again, to me its not worth the chance that your dog will be sitting in a pool of water when you pick him up.
If its winter, you have a small dog and he is used to wearing a sweater put it on – the hold is climate controlled (also remember to check with the airlines where you are flying as some planes holds are not climate controlled and they do not allow animals to fly in them) but only put on a sweater if he is not the kind of dog to wriggle right out of a sweater and maybe get it caught up around him. Put a couple of laminated luggage tags on crate to identify it. And make sure he has a snug fitting collar and tags with the correct info. Worse case scenario – should your dog get out of its crate for any reason and someone reaches for his collar to grab him, the last thing you want is a loose collar that he can slip out of. If you are going to a really cold climate, in the past I have padded the inside of the crate with carpet scraps, and put flaps over the ventilation holes and gate to keep him warmer. Do not fly a dog wearing a choke chain!
Okay, so when you get to the airport, I ALWAYS get a skycab. Nine times out of ten, they will get you to a separate line or to the front quicker. You will be asked for Health Certificate and Rabies Cert, sometimes they won’t ask you for any paperwork. You will fill out the sticker or paperwork that attaches to crate – don’t forget to write (as there is no option to check off) DO NOT FEED/ DO NOT WATER on the paperwork. Depending on the airlines you may be asked to take your dog out of the crate while they put the crate thru the baggage x-ray (where you drop off your suitcases) so be prepared with a leash. And finally, and here is the most important part TIP the skycab at least $20.00. He is the one that takes (or if for some reason they switch – tip the person who takes the dog away on a cart as well) the dog down to the area where they put them on the trolley to the plane. You want him to move your dog around with care and $20 or more has an affect on them! I think!
Again in 20 years I have not had a serious problem flying a dog, a cat, squirrel or a duck.
Do remember in winter each individual airline has their own regulations as to the temperature that they will allow a dog to fly. So to be safe in the winter do not fly early in the morning or late at night as the temp may be too cold. Try for flights in the middle of the day when it has warmed up. I once had a midday flight in January from Des Moines back to L.A. The guidelines if I remember correctly, stated that the temperature on the tarmac be 8 degrees…It was about 2 degrees. We had to wait for another flight to see if it warmed up. Which it barely did. It was just at 7 degrees and they allowed us on the flight because we had big sturdy dogs (a Labrador and a German Shepherd) that could handle the colder temp. Also, in the summer the opposite applies – they will not fly a dog if it gets too hot. So flying at night or early morning is best. They are going by the temperature on the tarmac, because at some point your pet has to be taxied out on the luggage trolley to the plane and will be fully exposed to the elements.
I hope this helps – some dogs handle it better than others, most actually handle it okay, its usually the owner that doesn’t!
Don’t hate. Jackson was flown in the first class cabin because he was working on a movie. A nice perk.
FYI if you fly internationally – use an animal broker to handle all your paperwork such as PacPet based out of Los Angeles (most major cities have them, if you cannot find one in your area contact PacPet for help) that way you’re not missing anything and they handle everything so its much easier. And if you know you may be flying to Europe then contact PacPet http://www.pacpet.com at least one year before your trip as there are some requirements that take that long…