Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Oh how we love the sunberries. They are sort of like a blueberry, but with more of an explosion of sunshine in your mouth. They are incredibly delicate and most all of what we get off of the one plant gets picked and eaten in the yard.

We recently got a ton of rain and the temps have cooled enough that the plant is really producing. By really producing I mean a small bowl's worth. I have plans of growing many, many more sunberry plants next year. Visions of sunberry jam.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Número Uno

The main reason I put so much effort in to growing our own food and making good, real food is our son. Don't get me wrong, growing things, gardening, connecting with nature and the change of seasons has always been a part of my life. I remember my grandpa's garden full of radishes, tomatoes, cukes and plums. While my mom has always had more of an eye for aesthetics and landscape design, less emphasis on food. Honestly, it was these two peoples' influences that drew me to landscape architecture.

Over time my focus has come to center on food security, organic production and permaculture. Our bit of land has become a testing ground in combining design aesthetics and food production.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

super-mini apple orchard

We are always wanting to increase our fruit production and recently planted three apple trees using the high density planting method. Right now they are surrounded by our volunteer sunflowers, making it a little hard to see the trees. In our tree triangle we planted Arkansas Black, Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apple varieties. If the high density planting method is successful I'm thinking we'll have to do the same for cherries - a favorite of mine and the little person.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011



As the law stands we cannot meet the distance requirements for keeping chickens on our normal sized suburban lot. We just sent the following letter to our councilperson and Mayor.

Mayor Rosenthal,

We are long time Norman residents and homeowners in Ward 8. We are writing to ask for your consideration in changing the zoning code in regards to chickens. While chickens are technically allowed in any zoning district, according to Section 3-501, it is virtually impossible to meet the following distance requirements on a typical suburban lot:

(3) Such animals maintained on single-family, two-family and multi-family districts are not permitted closer than:

[a]Twenty-five (25) feet to a lot line upon which is situated an inhabited dwelling, nor

[b] One hundred (100) feet to any dwelling other than the owner's

There are numerous benefits to keeping chickens. They are vigorous eaters of pests such as mosquito, grubs, and flies. They provide great, high-quality fertilizer. They dispose of weeds and kitchen scraps that otherwise might end up in the landfill. Chickens provide an affordable source of protein that is often of higher quality than store-bought eggs. They can be a way for families to achieve more food security . Last but not least, chickens are fun, friendly pets with educational value for children about where food comes from. Roosters are not necessary for egg production, and without roosters present hens are much quieter.

We researched 14 cities similar in size and population and with a university (please see attached table); many allow chickens and with less restrictive distance requirements than Norman. Twenty-five feet from adjacent structures is the most common distance in these peer cities. Many of these cities limit the number of hens and most do not allow roosters. Several have requirements that chicken coops be maintained and kept clean. We would ask you to please consider revisions to Norman’s ordinance, reducing the distance requirements for the keeping of chickens. We would welcome any additional clarification you think necessary such as, prohibiting roosters, coop maintenance, number of hens, etc.

If we may be of further assistance, or if we need to come before City Council, please let us know.

Here's the table referenced in the letter:

If you too would like to contact your councilperson or Norman's Mayor regarding chickens their contact information is here http://www.ci.norman.ok.us/content/city-council and here http://www.ci.norman.ok.us/content/mayor

Sunday, February 27, 2011

planting time!

We've decided to rework our garden beds some in order to make room for a 6 X 8 greenhouse. We love growing our own organic potatoes so Gabe dismantled one long bed to construct a two tiered potato bed (in the distance).

Gabe attended a permaculture workshop in OKC about a month ago where he learned the 'lasagna method' of gardening. We've read about it before, but have yet to put it in to practice...until now.

start with a solid layer of plain cardboard and wet it down. add greens, then browns, alternating and topping with soil.

We did the same method using straw-bales for the sides of our strawberry and lettuce bed.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

the results

Things have been super busy so I haven't had a lot of time to write this post. We ended the challenge last Sunday, February 6th. While we did save money on our groceries (22% compared to the same period of time last year), we spent more on eating out (64%). Ack! The last week of the challenge was particularly busy for us, and we ended up eating out WAY more than we expected. The Earth Cafe and Deli and Pepe Delgados we love you and your wonderful vegetarian meals! Both the hubby and I lost weight, he more than I (7 pounds to my 2) - though proportionally it's about the same (2 and 3%). Throughout the experiment I did feel as though I had more energy. And while there were a couple of fun family colds (yay, cold and flu season!), I felt like I recovered quicker and didn't feel as bad.

From here on out we've decided to only eat meat once a week, including all meals. So if we have sausage for breakfast on Sunday morning that's it for the week. Yesterday, we enjoyed wonderful burgers from Kaiser's, so that's it until next week. We've also decided to take one day a month and make ahead some convenience foods (pizza dough, veggie taquitos, casseroles, etc) for those 'emergency' nights so we don't end up eating out as much.

Our next adventure is (sub)urban chickens! We'll be posting more about that soon.

Friday, February 4, 2011

food miles and costs

We are stuck in snowzilla, snowmageddon, snowpocalypse, whatever you want to call it...we're buried under almost a foot of snow. And more is falling. Our fridge was well stocked on Monday before the snow started falling, but this morning we realized we're out of milk, really low on butter, eggs and peanut butter. This morning we made the decision to go to the nearest store, located off of a snow route instead of going to a specialty, local store further away on more treacherous roads. This means we've effectively broken our diet of locally sourced dairy.

It's a bummer, but at least we have food and a warm house. We're sticking to the no meat for the duration of the experiment, only 3 more days. I have to admit I would love to have a nice beef stew or homemade chicken noodle soup in this cold, cold weather. I came across this interesting study on food miles. Admittedly, I have not made it all the way through the article but it was of some comfort to read that a diet of reduced red meat and dairy generates less greenhouse gases than buying all locally sourced foods.

Throughout this experiment we've found ourselves shopping at local (or regional) grocery stores as opposed to big-box, mega stores (with the exception of today's shopping trip). I've noticed we tend to make more expensive impulse purchases at big-box stores than at smaller grocery stores. I'm sure this is how 'they' like it, but our budget doesn't agree. I plan on doing some calculations at the end of our experiment to tally up just how much we've spent and compare it to our average non-local, non-veggie expenditures.

Monday, January 31, 2011

veggie love

The kid likes cauliflower! Really likes it. I made it on Sunday night along with Tomato and Cinnamon Chickpeas and garlic bread. As I was prepping it I thought to myself 'he's not going to eat this. Maybe if we pretend it is something weird or icky, like monkey brains he'll be in to it.' Then he came in to the kitchen and asked 'what's that?!' I told him and he asked to try some. And then some more.

Tonight we made veggie pizza faces (credit Highlights High Five magazine). He ate most of the raw veggies while making the faces and REALLY wanted to eat raw pizza dough, but I managed to convince him otherwise. Christian Cheese Garlic Cheddar = delicious pizza yumminess.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

winner, winner tempeh dinner!

This week's surprise hit was tonight's dinner of 'Tempeh Helper' featuring a *cheese* sauce made from nutritional yeast. The recipe came from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Appetite for Reduction.
Everyone enjoyed this one, even the little person, who has previously spat out tempeh.

We are doing really well in keeping on track. We did go out to eat last week, to our favorite Mexican restaurant - Pepe Delgados. We were able to stay true with Veggie Things (picture burritos as big as your face loaded with rice, black beans, fried potatoes and peppers, topped with fantastic hot sauce) without sour cream or cheese. I have to say it was wildly satisfying, even without the diary. And somehow I didn't quite feel as guilty for eating over half of it.

We got our co-op order this week, so we're set with delicious cheese from Wagon Creek Creamery and mushrooms from OM Gardens. The kid snacking on some golden oysters, below

Here's this week's dinner menu:
Saturday - Tempeh Helper, carrots and celery, salad
Sunday - 'Caesar' Salad, Mushroom Barley, cheese bread
Monday - Lentil Bolognese, salad
Tuesday - Carrot Coconut Milk Soup, garlic sesame toast
Wednesday - Chickpea Salad, fruit and jicama
Thursday - Minted Yogurt Soup, bread, salad
Friday - Butternut Coconut Rice, Blackened Tofu, greens

Monday, January 17, 2011

week 1 - Operation VEGE-LOCA

Well, we started our adventure yesterday. So far, so good. Here's what is on deck for this week's dinner menu:



BBQ tofu






Veggies and fruit


Enchilada casserole

Sweet potato ‘fries’


Tempeh tacos




Asparagus quiche


Generally speaking lunch is the previous night's dinner leftovers. And breakfast varies with whatever the little person demands (yogurt with fruit or granola, PBJ toast, eggs, oatmeal, etc). Speaking of little person tastes, we've discovered the kid LOVES nuts and seeds - yippee! It's particularly funny to watch him pry open pistachios.

This weekend I made the following for consuming throughout the week: wheat bread, trail mix, yogurt, fig bars, banana cashew balls, granola, ketchup, cocoa oat cookies.

Unfortunately this resulted in our kitchen becoming a disaster. But the fridge is well stocked!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

21 days, no meat and as much local dairy and produce we can get our hands on

I recently realized I spend a lot of time on food – thinking/planning, preparing it, eating it. The latter probably takes the least amount of time (I need learn to slow down and savor). And most of what we try to do at our house in regards to sustainability is food related, some of which has been documented on this blog. Perhaps this is because it is the easiest and cheapest…well, in some respects.

After watching the documentary Food, Inc. we tried to ‘go local’ on all of the meat we prepared and ate at home, but that got expensive. And being that I am working part time we just don’t have it in our budget to buy all the meat that we *want* locally. Soooo, that led us to the decision to go mostly vegetarian. Which we’ve successfully accomplished over the past few months (excepting holiday celebrations), only eating meat once or twice a week (and only from local and sustainable sources). Our son loves meat, in fact when pregnant with him I would dream of salami sandwiches, chicken fried steak, and bacon. Our son’s love of meat has held me back from trying a total vegetarian diet (Though, he didn’t eat meat at all until he was over a year old and fully in the finger foods stage – jarred baby food ‘meats’ = bleh). We’ve never been a short order cook type household and have generally always fed him what we are eating. We’ve recently had a strengthening in our philosophy of ‘kids will eat what you provide for them’; and by modeling the desired behavior (eating yummy veggie dishes) ourselves we can help motivate him to eat what we’re eating.

I was a vegetarian of varying degrees for over 10 years, so our switch to meat only once or twice a week has not been a big transition for me. Cheese and other dairy products were always an integral part of my vegetarian diet mainly for their easy supply of protein and calcium. Unfortunately they carry with them a lot of fat, calories, and cholesterol. Lately for whatever reason I’ve been drawn to veganism and strangely enough so has my husband. But we love dairy in our house, and I mean LOVE so it’s probably unreasonable to ever go that far.

Another side of the eat/shop local philosophy that appeals to us is the positive effects it has on our local community. Money stays here instead of going to large corporations located elsewhere; we get to know more people in our community (farmers, fellow patrons); and for the most part less fossil fuels are used in our acquisition of products.

There is a ton of research out there to suggest that a diet high in plants and low in animal products has many desirable effects on health – lower cholesterol, lower risk of heart disease, lower body weight, etc. Given these health benefits and above mentioned factors we’ve decided to embark on a 21 day challenge to our diets, starting this Sunday, January 16. We’re calling it OPERATION: VEGE-LOCA. Here are the parameters:

· Absolutely no meat (fish included)

· Only dairy/eggs from local (within our state) farms with sustainable and humane practices

· No ‘faux meats’ other than tofu, tempeh, TVP, and seitan (no Morningstar Farms, Quorn, Boca, etc)

· As much locally grown produce as possible (being that it’s the dead of winter and we have limited tolerance for greens in our household this will be extra challenging)

· Homemade and whole staples as much as possible (bread, pasta, grains, etc)

We’re fortunate enough to belong to a food cooperative with monthly ordering and for the past few months we’ve also been enjoying a weekly delivery from a local farm with wonderful eggs and goat’s milk – yay! We’ve also been successfully turning said milk in to yogurt and cheese – double yay! Our town’s farmers market is closed for the winter, but one is available within a short drive with ample selection.

Since we live in Oklahoma, a relatively unfriendly place to those of the vegan/vegetarian persuasion, this will mean very little eating out. There's a handful of restaurants in our town that have quality vegetarian offerings. And since we’ll be limited to only local dairy this will probably mean no cheese when eating out.

I have a tendency to want to prove things, so here are some initial hypothesizes (not sure how we’ll prove/disprove all of them):

· We will lose weight (except for the boy – he gets to drink a lot more milk than we do, and he eats ALL THE TIME)

· We will save money on grocery bills and eating out expenses

· We will have more energy

· We will help our local community and meet new people

We’ll be posting our successes and failures, random thoughts, etc throughout the process. We aim to post at least once a week, hopefully more. So check back if you’d like.

In case you’re interested here are some of our inspirations for this experiment:

Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses by Ricki Carroll

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter

The Urban Homestead (Expanded & Revised Edition) by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen