Category Archives: Questions

Urban Farm and Garden Resources You Need to Know About

heartI found myself emailing this information to a reader the other day. I wanted to make sure you knew about these awesome resources in our area that I love.

Seattle Seed Library

It’s happening! A group of Seattle gardeners and seed savers have organized a seed library in Seattle! What’s a seed library?

A seed library offers a simple means of preserving, diversifying and sharing seeds. When you’re ready to plant something new in your garden, borrow seeds from the library – FOR FREE! It doesn’t cost anything to be a member or to borrow seeds. Member donations keep the library stocked for the next season.

Saving seeds has become an important part of my garden and I can’t wait to contribute to this community seed library! I’ve been reading about them lately (check out this article) and wished we had one around here. Now we do! Click here to learn more.

Übr Local

Übr Local is a cool urban food network where you can create a profile and then buy, sell or swap your homestead goods with others in the area. Their mission:

We are building a collaborative food economy that values human energy, under-utilized space, and the power of neighbors helping neighbors. Together we can rebuild an uber local food economy!. We define uber local as anything produced and consumed within roughly 10 miles of each other or within city limits.

It’s like a super specific, urban farm version of Craig’s List that allows you to connect with other gardeners and urban farmers in your neighborhood and in other communities. I recently created a profile and am excited to post some of my harvests to swap or sell! It’s like a virtual egg stand! Click here to create your own profile.

Backyard Barter

Similarly, Backyard Barter is a network of gardeners connecting with each other around Seattle in order to barter or trade their homegrown food and related food and materials. They host monthly bartering fairs, which I have yet (emphasis on yet) to attend, but definitely will one of these days.

Seattle Farm Co-op

Surely, you know the co-op already, but I had to include them in case you don’t. I have learned more from their Yahoo group and skills share classes than I have learned from anywhere else. When I started raising chickens, it was like having friends I could trust if I had a question. Even now, with years of experience under my belt, I still learn and benefit from this amazing co-op and community of urban farmers. If you have not visited their physical warehouse or home on the web, you should. They are an incredibly valuable resource in this community.

Homemade Ginger Beer Q and A

IMG_3712My DIY ginger beer tutorial is my most popular post to date! It’s been viewed by more people than any other post I’ve written. And honestly, I’m not surprised. It is one of the most fun and rewarding homemade kitchen projects you’ll make. For me though, writing the post about ginger beer was almost as fun as making the beer itself. It started a dialogue of questions and answers, updates and encouragement as lots of people started brewing ginger beer at home. The conversations and excitement around this DIY kitchen project have been energizing!

I decided to compile the ginger beer-making questions I’ve received into one post. Give this project a try and keep the questions coming – I will help you along the way! Feel free to send me your updates too – I love to hear about how your project is going!

Bottles and Bottling Equipment

Is it safe to use recycled standard glass beer bottles as long as they’re cleaned and sanitized first?

Yes you can! Just not the twist off cap bottles if you want to use a bottle capper like I showed in my ginger beer video. You’ll need pop top bottles for that!

How do I sanitize recycled bottles?

If you have a sanitize cycle on your dishwasher, that would be the easiest way to prep your bottles. Otherwise, the National Geographic Green Living page suggests a method similar to that used to sanitize canning jars:

To sanitize the bottles, you can place them in the dishwasher and use the sanitize setting. The moist heat will kill pathogens inside and outside. If you don’t have a dishwasher, try boiling the bottles to remove the pathogens. Fill a large pot with enough water to submerge the bottles. Heat the water and the bottles on the stove until they come to a rolling boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Then remove the bottles from the water and dry them with a clean towel.

Where can I purchase the bottles, caps and cappers?

I purchased my supplies locally, at Cellar Homebrew in North Greenwood/Shoreline.

Custom bottle caps?

Yep! You can order them here!

Ginger Bug and Fizz (Natural Carbonation)

No yeast?

Nope! Not in this recipe. The combination of fresh ginger with the skin on, sugar and water create the “bug” that gives this ginger beer its fizz.

What if my bug is ready, but I’m not ready to bottle it?

According to fermentation master, Sandor Katz, once the bug is active, if you’re not ready to use it, you can keep feeding it with fresh ginger and sugar every couple of days. However, if the bubbles are gone and it seems like your bug is no longer active, I’d just start over again.

I’ve heard my bottles could explode from the pressure created by the carbonation. Is that true?

From what I’ve read that seems to be true. I’ve never had a bottle explode, but just to be sure, it might be worth it to store your bottles where it wouldn’t be a messy disaster (or dangerous) if a bottle did explode from the carbonation.

I opened one of my bottles two weeks into the rest period and it had little fizz. What did I do wrong? 

It is very possible it just needs a little more time to ferment. One new ginger brewer said about this experience, “…another week later I opened another bottle and WOW. This is the BEST ginger beer I have ever had. It was perfect.”


Ginger Beer Recipe

How many bottles does this recipe typically fill? 

About 10 or 11 (beer bottles like the one in the photo above)

How long can I keep the bottled ginger beer before I drink it?

I have kept my bottles of ginger beer for a few months before opening them, I just had to open the cap ridiculously slow to prevent losing half the bottle because of all the carbonation. I wonder now if that length of time changes the alcohol content. (More research needed for this one.)

Can I use other sugars, like brown sugar, to make the bug?

I’d say that organic sugar is the way to go – the less refined, the better.

What can I do to spice it up a bit?

I think the flavor of this ginger beer is divine – I wouldn’t change a thing. However, if you want to make it a bit spicier, you can adjust the amount of ginger you add, during part two.

Do you have to use water to make the bug? Would it work with juice?

I wouldn’t use juice because of the things that get added to juice as it is processed. Stick with water and sugar as specified in the recipe.

Is the beverage supposed to be cloudy? Is that sediment normal?

Yes to both.

What is the alcoholic content for this recipe?

It is nonalcoholic. Sandor Katz says, It’s “a soft drink, fermented just enough to create fermentation but not enough to contribute any appreciable level of alcohol.”


General Fermentation Questions

Is there any serious risk of food borne diseases, like botulism?

I am a big food hypochondriac when it comes to canning and preserving food. Being safe is super important to me. From what I’ve learned about food borne illness, I feel safe using this ginger beer recipe because of the acid present in the recipe via the lemon juice and the way I seal the bottles in air-tight containers (bottles).

Here are a few links about the topic of fermentation and food safety:

The Three Biggest Fermenting Mistakes

But I Thought It Was Anaerobic If It Was Under The Brine

Debunking the Botulism Fear

Waste not, want not: Using Almond Paste

When I agreed to write a guest post for October Unprocessed, I knew I’d have fun. I’ve loved the project the whole way through! What I didn’t expect though was how much I’d enjoy the dialogue that would come about via the comment section. As of now, there are 37 comments on the post and with so many fantastic tidbits of information in them from some pretty savvy, whole foods-eatin’ readers, I just had to share! They’ve taught me so much! I had no idea I could love my almond milk making even more!

Did you know there are nut milk bags (Nut milk Bag 1 Quart) that you can use for straining? Me neither! We can strain the second mason jar of milk through one of those and make it even smoother! I wonder if the jelly bag I have will work…I think so!

Did you know there are tons more uses for the almond paste bi-product than just a protein boost to smoothies? Me neither! Here are some things we can do with the paste:

  • Almond “cheese” – Sounds like a hummus-type concoction to me – delicious on sandwiches or with veggies for dipping!
  • Almond paste cookies – Add some lemon juice, unsweetened coconut and agave into the pulp, form it into cookies and dehydrate for a nice healthy treat with a cup of tea. (Thanks, Deborawh!)
  • Dehydrated almond paste – In her comment, Sarah said that leftover almond paste dries quickly in a dehydrator. Just spread on parchment paper and dry at 110 to 135 until dry. Store covered in the refrigerator and add up to 1/4 of almond meal for flour in most recipes.
  • Toasted almond paste – Linda taught me that another good way to use the solids that are left is to spread them out on a cookie sheet and toast them. She said she’s taken the toasted grains of almonds, added a bit of almond oil and an even smaller bit of almond flavoring and mixed thoroughly with her hands. This, along with some sugar and egg, makes a great base for fruit tarts and gallettes. She said she’s planning to use it for her almond carrot cake and macaroons. Love the sound of that!

Don’t like your almond milk plain? You can jazz it up with lots of different additions. These were some of the suggestions:

  • Add a splash of vanilla
  • A spoonful of honey or two
  • Blend in 2-3 dates
  • Add agave for sweetness
Why limit ourselves to just almond milk? Maybe we should give some other nuts a try! People were raving about cashew milk, saying it’s super delicious and creamy. Maybe that should be the next thing on the agenda. Summer said her favorite right now is DIY cardamom brazil nut milk and you know how I feel about cardamom. This will be happening in my kitchen. Soon. Deborawh said her daughter loved the cashew chocolate milk she made. She said the pulp can be left in for a thicker milk with added raw cacao and agave or honey to taste. You can bet I’ll be making this as well.
Making almond milk was like opening Pandora’s box, but in a good way. Had it not been for the collective knowledge of this inspiring and thriving community, I might never have known what other amazing things I could be making with this one recipe! All of this goodness right under my nose! Thank you, my friends and readers! You inspire me!
* This post is linked up on Fresh Food Wednesday

Questions Answered: Strawberry Patch Renovation

Hi everyone!

A few weeks ago, I wrote this post and shared this video:

Then yesterday, I posted a picture on my Facebook page* of how lovely my strawberry patch is looking after having renovated earlier this month. I got the message that some of you were a little hesitant to mow down your plants for fear you’d damage them. I can totally relate! It seemed drastic to me too. But then when I renovated the first time and saw that the strawberries come back again thriving (not fruiting, of course) in just a few short weeks, I was confident that this method, which I learned from the WSU Extension when I became a Master Gardener, was well worth the shock and awe it induces.

This is what they’re looking like now! Nice, right? They didn’t die! Success!

And you asked:

Q: Can I still do this? Do you think it’s too late?
A: I say, yes! Just do it! We still have lots of sunny days to come with our Indian summers. According to the extension, the best time to mow is from July 14 to August 1. But I think better late than never.

Q: How late in the season can you mow?
A: Like I said, I’d probably do it now even though we missed the optimal window. I’d make sure to renovate before August is over though, but that’s just me. Mowing them in September would probably be just fine too.

Q: Do you use this technique with day-neutrals or ever-bearing strawberries?
A: No, because they can continue to produce fruit into the fall – I just harvest 1/4 lb. of strawberries from my day-neutrals. I just let those go.

Q: Will you mow them again in the fall?
A: Nope, they’ll be fine!

Q: What about mulch and protection for the winter?
A: If anything, I put chicken manure/bedding around the plants in the fall as a mulch and call it good. No protection, even when it snows. They’ll survive…or they won’t and I’ll plant again! That’s just how I roll!

I hope this helps, friends! Keep the questions coming – this is fun!


* Have you “liked” my page yet? You’ll be able to see random updates and pictures from the “farm” that way. I finally caved and got a Smart phone, which means I can connect with you more frequently on the fly now! With pictures! Fun!