Root Cellar Update

10 01 2009

I thought it was time to give you a root cellar update. Besides I wanted some slaw.

Whoa! What the heck is that?

Whoa! What the heck is that?

Back at the end of November, I’d shown you my pumphouse where I was experimenting with root cellar-type storage of some food. I have potatoes, cover crop seeds, and some … cabbages.

I’d wrapped the cabbages in damp cloth and placed them in a cooler in the pumphouse/root cellar. I left the lid of the cooler cracked for ventilation. What I didn’t mention (since it wasn’t pertinent then) was that I’d actually stored those 4 cabbages back on October 10th. It is now January 10th (full disclosure: I took that one out 1/8, but close enough).

Honey, were really not that poor, we can buy new food ...

Honey, we're really not that poor, we can buy new food ...

Amazing what can go on in 3 months in a dark, moist area. 🙂

A little peeling (one layer, honest!), a quick rinse and …

Okay, thats not too bad

Okay, that's not too bad.

Still, it pays to be safe so I checked the insides before committing myself to slaw with dinner.

Ooh pretty!

Ooh pretty!

I tasted it and it was crisp and peppery and there was slaw for dinner. Yay!

The other nice part about it was that I had grown those purple cabbages myself (with starts donated by Rebecca – thank you!) and purple cabbages aren’t even meant for storage. We also had some temperature fluctuations in the root cellar (power outages, frozen pipes, cranky heaters) so conditions weren’t 100% perfect.

At the end of November, I had also put in a 50# box of potatoes. So far they’re doing great too. No fuzziness.

I’m happy with the success of this experiment and look forward to storing a larger variety in the root cellar over next winter. It’s a great feeling of luxury to be able to go pick potatoes out of the root cellar and an onion out of the office closet 🙂 and start making dinner.


Upriver Community

21 11 2008

The shrinking economy has brought about much speculation about how we’ll be living in 6 months, next year and even further down the road. My favorite crank James Howard Kunstler fictionalizes one kind of future in his novel World Made By Hand. The news has suggested we’ll all be isolated and hunkered down in front of the TV as it’s the cheapest form of entertainment. People are stocking up on guns and ammo. Wal*Mart will be the only food supplier or there’ll be no food except what we can grow in our personal victory gardens. Food riots? More economic stratification? Outright collapse? Who knows!

Personally I don’t find fear mongering very useful. We can, however, examine various possibilities and they can help motivate us to work toward a positive outcome.

We don’t have a lot up here, but we do have community. We also have the unique problem of how to connect 5000 or so people that are spread out along the 50 mile stretch of Highway 20 from Newhalem to Birdsview and beyond. We’re diverse. We have Tarheels, back-to-the-landers, retirees, communes, city folk, old hippies, new hippies, teenagers, Republicans, Democrats, Independents and every stripe in between. Within our diversity, we all have a few things in common: We love the Upriver area despite its challenges and we all have to drive Downriver to meet some of our needs. We do have our free monthly paper and we can still sometimes pick up the Courier Times at Albert’s, but there just hasn’t been any way for us to keep in touch or disseminate news amongst ourselves.

Hopefully by next year that all can change. KSVR‘s General Manager Rip Robbins was up here last month telling us about his exciting new project … for us! He has applied for a federal grant and since we’re under-served (we knew that), we’re eligible for a public radio station. Local radio! For us, by us. With the school involved, teens could host their own music shows. The rest of us can have local talk and news programming, some NPR shows, and very importantly broadcasts from the Emergency Alert System (EAS). Imagine! Radio reception in the house and from a local station no less.

So how is it that I knew about this and you didn’t? Well, I haven’t seen you at our monthly AWARE meetings now have I? Rip Robbins was there last month and Michelle Coda also gave a presentation about the nascent Upriver Coop. (A little bird has been twittering about the prospects of a coop blog for keeping us all updated on that front as well.) Last night we learned about a campaign for public financing for Supreme Court Justices in Washington. It was a fun and informative discussion. Honest!

So there you have it! I expect you to make a New Year’s resolution to interact with your community. Come to the next AWARE meeting on January 15th. If you can’t wait that long, there’s a tentative date of December 1st set for an opportunity to find out how to appeal your recent property assessment at a meeting hosted by AWARE at the Senior Center with Commissioner Sharon Dillon and a representative from the Board of Equalization. I’ll update here when I know for sure on the date.

So while Wall Street is going in the tank and people are finding it harder to make ends meet, let us meet and support each other.

Before you drive Downriver to shop for Christmas, stop by Sauk Mountain Gallery, Sauk Mountain Pottery, M Gallerie and our other local shops first. You might just save yourself a trip *and* make a local merchants holiday brighter.

Let’s meet monthly and discuss our Upriver issues.

Let’s let our imaginations fly and plan some radio programming. Get the kids involved!

While we’re planning, we can also plan our modern victory gardens and we can plan on a CSA share next spring from Jericho Farm.

Check out some of the other farmers, ranchers and producers that I’ve featured on this blog over the past year and see where you can buy local food. After all, we don’t have a Wal*Mart here and, frankly, we don’t need one.

Oh and, if you stocked up on guns and ammo, well, let’s go plinking! 🙂


12 05 2008

I don’t know about you, but my seed potatoes are still in a brown paper bag. Last year I planted them in April, the year before at the end of March. Today I can still see the snow level looming in the foothills. It’s going up and down like a set of faulty blinds. Faulty because it’s mid-May and I should be wearing shorts not lohnjohns and certainly not wondering if we’re going to have to start burning next year’s wood already. It’s going to be a short season Upriver this year.

Meanwhile, it’s a good time to sign up for a CSA share. Jericho Farm still has shares. Give Rebecca a call or visit her at the first Saturday Market (Concrete Senior Center) on May 24th. She has full shares, half shares and EBT payment options this year. We were her guinea pigs last year and we’re looking forward to another season of fresh vegetables.

It’s also a good time to go through the freezer and the pantry. Bring the Musgovians forward and finish off last year’s harvest stash! Our Farmer’s Markets are starting up, but they’ll be mostly vegetables starts, a few early greens and asparagus yet. Last month we inadvertantly emulated the fictional family profiled in The Ethicurean’s humorous January post – on April Fool’s Day we shopped for a party and on April 28th I picked up a small bunch of Washington asparagus and some rapini from Mother Flight Farm. This weekend’s bad weather kept the seed potatoes in their bags still, but I got the freezers organized with crates so we might just eat out of the pantry for another month.

Another motivation is the media flurry over the price of food (oil). One important aspect that doesn’t seem to get addressed, however, is the incredible amount of food that gets wasted in the US. This happens on all levels from harvest (~40%) to kitchen (15%-25%). The price of petroleum-based commodities are going up, but Americans don’t spend very much on food. If they did, so much possibly wouldn’t get wasted. While the national average is about 10%-15% and going up, our household spends probably about 20%-25% of gross income on food. That does include dining out, but mostly it’s going to our local farmers and ranchers. Trust me, I’m not about to waste a quarter of my small income! Fortunately, this issue is being addressed in the Wasted Food blog and eventually a book.

Anyway, according to the forecast, summer will be here full force on Thursday so it’s time to dig out the shorts and dig in the potatoes!

Chicken Update

They’re settling in well although still in somewhat temporary quarters. Hopefully by next week they’ll be big enough to fend off the cats and they can begin free-ranging around the yard. Keith is becoming quite the chicken whisperer and the birds are getting used to being handled.

New for spring

24 04 2008

Another day of cold rain and another day needing a fire, but things are greening up and there have been nettles and Claytonia to munch on. Can planting be too far behind? Patience.

Meanwhile, I’ve found a few things that should be useful for everyone:

An easy-to-use search for things in season right here in the PNW at Seasonal Cornucopia. If you leave all fields blank, you’ll get a lovely long list of all the foods that are best right now. You can also restrict results to certain categories such as fruits, vegetables, foraged edibles and so on. This is a wonderful tool and my hat is off to the hard-working people that took the time and effort to create it.

Slow Food Skagit River Salish Sea finally has a website online. There’s a Skagivore event at the co-op on April 29th which should be a good venue to learn more about the local slow food movement. See you there? 🙂

Craigslist has a Skagit community finally!

In other news, there is now an edibleSeattle publication! Of course it is focused down south, but it might be worth a look next time you’re nosing around Whole Foods or Pcc. Meanwhile, check out their Resources
tab for a great set of links. They also have a blog Fresh Sheet which may prove to be interesting.

Speaking of blogs, I’ve found a few new ones with some local’ish interest:

Eat Local Northwest – Seattle

Wild Food Plants – CA (but we share many wild edibles)

Let me know if you have a local blog and I’ll post it to my blogroll.

Power for the People

Of concern to us all is the pending sale of Puget Sound Energy to the Australian

Macquarie Consortium.

We went to a community meeting (AWARE) here at the Concrete Senior Center last Thursday where the potential for a purchase of Skagit County’s assets with the Skagit County P.U.D. was discussed. Representative Kirk Pearson was in attendance and seemed to be interested in the matter as well. This was encouraging. We as citizens need to ask for this and act on it, however, or our electrical services and possibly the vital control of the Skagit River will be in the hands of an overseas absentee landlord.

Here is a brief overview compiled at (Guemes).

Fill out the poll at the Skagit County P.U.D. website.

Come to the public hearing at the Bellingham Senior Activity Center on May 20th. If you’re in East Skagit, come to the AWARE community meeting on May 15th (?) at 7pm as well.

In addition to the people mentioned in the LineTime overview, write to your elected representatives: Christine Gregoire, Rob McKenna, Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray, Rick Larsen, Val Stevens, Dan Kristiansen, Kirk Pearson, and Commissioner Jim Cook and General Manager David Johnson of Skagit P.U.D. (If you’re not in the 39th District, you might have to find your own representative.)

This is our opportunity to wrest our power utility from private hands and into a public cooperative form of management. It will most likely be a tough fight, but the outcome will be worth it: local ownership of our resources and assets with no skimming of (at minimum) 10% of profits off to line the pockets of foreign

If you are unsure about the sale, now is the time to educate yourself on this issue. The deep pockets advertising campaign will begin soon to try to convince you that selling our rights off to foreign interests is a good idea. It is not.

Read “The Pros and Cons of Private Provision of Water and Electricity Service: A Handbook for Evaluating Rationales” (HTML) and other informative articles at that link.

Also Beyond Privatization: Restructuring Water Systems to Improve Performance (PDF link to report)

P.S. I’m having some formatting issues, I apologize.

Okanogan County (Twisp & Winthrop)

30 01 2008

Ever since the North Cascades Highway opened in 1972, my family has made the drive almost every year. Usually it’s just a weekend jaunt, but we’ve been known to spend more time “east of the mountains” as well. If the road is open, we certainly use it as our preferred means for crossing over. While there are plenty of the familiar and favorites to revisit every year, it seems that new discoveries are to be made every time.

Local 98856 Sign

This year, one such discovery was Local 98856. Sound a bit like a union? It is, of sorts. A group got together and set up a commercial kitchen cooperative – a union of community. Farmstand, coffee shop or a quick place to pick up dinner, it’s many things, but most importantly it is a celebration of local foods in Okanogan County. The apples might have come from an orchard 8 miles away and the beer just a few blocks. The story in PDF

Glover Street Market in Twisp

Although we knew of it, we hadn’t visited Glover Street Market before. Often we’re just getting started on a camping trip so we’re already provisioned when we pass through the area or we’re enjoying the local restaurants during a short weekend visit. This time we planned a stop since I knew they carried Bluebird Grain Farms’ emmer in bulk. I picked up 5 lbs. of emmer and a few other things at this natural foods grocery.

I was a little disappointed at the dearth of some local ingredients (eggs, meat), but it was well-stocked for a small shop. If I was shopping, I’d visit the Local first and then finish off my grocery list at this store. A nice surprise, however, was a cute little mushroom bag which are made locally. Pretty good groceries, as they say.

Cinnamon Twisp

Besides, that sort of order of things would allow me to stock up on fresh-baked breads and other goodies at Cinnamon Twisp!

Tappi Restaurant, Twisp

Just down the block and across the street is another new find! Tappi is a welcoming and delicious place to have dinner before heading back across the pass. Since it’s just a 2 hour drive for us, we had planned on making it an occasional Monday night tradition as long as their special (free Margherita pizza with a bottle of wine) held out, but
unfortunately the pass got nasty. We look forward to the opening of the highway and our next visit to Tappi. Yelp review

Lost River Winery Community Red

We didn’t choose this wine for our pizzas, but we did have it earlier at our dinner at the Mazama Country Inn. We always buy Lost River wines while in the area and my mother buys it by the case delivered to Anacortes. It’s also available by the bottle at Hank’s Harvest Foods in Twisp, Winthrop Red Apple Market and, of course, at many of the local restaurants and shops.

Sweet River Bakery, Pateros, apple fritter

A somewhat accidental find was the Sweet River Bakery in Pateros. In the 36 (yipe!) years of visiting Okanogan County, we’ve never gone to Pateros that I recall. We’ll be going to Pateros now! We picked up pastries, custard, a hot cup of coffee, a couple loaves of bread and our email. What more could we ask for? More room in the car, I think. 😉

Some other places to go:

Twisp River Pub/Methow Brewing

Rocking Horse Bakery in Winthrop

Winthrop Brewing

Local 99586 jam

Wherever you are in Winthrop or Twisp, ask for Blue Star Coffee and enjoy what Okanogan County and the Methow Valley have to offer. Keep your eyes open, you might discover something new in an old favorite!

Sweet River Bakery almond claw

Before you go:

Methow Valley’s Buy Local Page

Sustainable Methow & Sustinere magazine

WSDOT Mountain Passes