Our Recycled Kitchen Garden

Spring kicks off this week and we are excited to get our outdoor garden space in order!  The beds are thawing out and all of the snow is melted.   As soon as these temps heat up, we will be in business!  We wanted to take a moment and shine a spotlight on all of the free and recycled or repurposed materials used to create our extensive kitchen garden!

When you’re establishing a garden for your family, there are lots of great free materials out there!  With our growing homestead, our budget is light so we have to be very thrifty while expanding.  Every penny counts, and who really has extra money to throw into a garden these days?

Here are all of the free and repurposed materials that we were able to acquire and incorporate into our outdoor garden space:

  • Raised Beds – We were able to come across some old barn wood that was gifted to us by a neighbor.  We created almost 250 linear feet of 3 feet wide raised beds.   The lumber was 1″ x 12″, so it was a little flimsy for the longer beds but all in all the lumber worked great and the cost was right….free!IMG_0134
  • Curved Raised Beds – After the barn wood was gone, we had a family friend that replaced their deck, and gifted us their old Trex Decking!  We installed a curved bed around our walkway and will be adding another bed around the exterior of the dome that will be planted with pollinator attracting flowers!img_0551.jpg
  • Wood Chip Mulch – All in all we had 6 dump truck loads of wood chips delivered.  After the raised beds were in, we filled in-between with the wood mulch.  The mulch ranged from 1′ deep to almost 2′ deep which has done a wonderful job of smothering the weeds and grass that we installed the garden over!  All of your arborists in town would love to deliver their wood chips to your yard for free instead of paying any kind of dump fee.  Call around and you’ll find them for free…delivered too.IMG_2445
  • Raised Bed Soil – We are lucky when it comes to our bed filling.  We are able to compost our microgreen soil and then use that material to fill our rasised beds.  The material is awesome potting soil that needs just a little compost added to make a great mix for our outdoor garden space!IMG_2326
  • Then there are the materials, pots and equipment.  Shovels, rakes, hoes, and other gardening tools are easy to find at garage sales or by scouring craiglist.  We were gifted some large planter pots from our family.  There are always pots being given away.  Be patient and ready to pounce when free items come available.img_0691.jpg

Thats pretty much the basics for a small garden.  And all for free.  All repurposed and recycled materials.  The food that is grown is top notch too.  Now lets see what we spent money on.

  • Geodesic Dome Greenhouse – We spent way too much money on our dome.   Its a great space for our personal gardening but it was expensive.  We saved lots of money over purchasing a kit greenhouse, but it was still an expensive build for our family.   We now use it for our personal produce more than a commercial space, which works for us, but we could really use more commercial greenhouse space.  If we started our farm before building this, we would have gone with hoop houses to increase the space, but we have an amazing small space for our family!cropped-img_0130-2.jpg
  • Fence Posts and Deer Screening – 10 Wood Posts, 10 Metal T Posts and 6′ Deer Screening was purchased in order to fence in our garden space.  Under $100 and the deer no longer have access.  We were able to find the screening on the facebook marketplace for a deep discount too!  Now we have roughly 1/10th of an acre fenced in.img_2229.jpg
  • Finished Compost – We have a compost area, but just not enough space to provide enough quality compost that we add to our raised beds prior to planting.  This gives our garden all the organic materials that it will need to produce all summer long!img_0126.jpg

With a few changes, mainly the greenhouse structure, we could have a huge garden space for under a couple thousand dollars including a greenhouse space.  If you want just a simple outdoor garden space, it can be almost free!  Its fun to re-use materials and grow your own food.  Don’t let your budget control your food growing aspirations.  Even a container garden on your patio can grow some amazing produce!

Check Facebook and Craiglist along with your local classifieds ads for fun materials that could be repurposed into a garden.   Check with friends and neighbors for anything they want to get rid of.  Call your arborists in town and schedule your first delivery of wood chips.  Get a shovel and a wheel barrel and start on the sweat equity.

 

 

Microgreen Guacamole!

IMG_0942We have been talking a lot about the versatility of micro-greens in the kitchen.   Really the only thing you need to avoid is heat exposure, so they are really useful in the kitchen.  They go way beyond sandwich and salad toppers.  One of our favorite uses is to wow people with our homemade dips and sauces.  The fan favorite to date is by far the guacamole with our cilantro micro-greens!

Micro-greens are perfect to blend into any sauce, and in this case they smash well into some homemade guacamole.  The huge flavor in these small micro-greens really work well with guac because they are delicate enough to mix into the creamy avocados, but the flavor comes through with every bite!

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Here is what you will need to make this amazing dish:
– 2 Ripe Avocados
– 1 Lime – squeezed fresh
– 1/4 cup Diced Red Onion
– Garlic Powder – just a dash
– Onion Powder – Just a dash
– Salt – Just a dash
– Cilantro Micros – add to taste

Start with the avocados.  Find the most ripe ones and dice them into a bowl.  Then we add some diced red onion.  For the spices we add a dash of onion and garlic powder and salt to your taste.  Then squeeze 1 lime into the bowl and place the cilantro greens (with seed husk) on top and mix all of the ingredients together with a  fork.  We use lots of cilantro micros, but feel free to add as little or as much as you like.  It doesn’t take too long before the guac is creamy and ready to go to the fridge.  This would also be the time to add any other toppers you may enjoy like diced tomatoes or salsa.

Cover with plastic wrap or a lid and place in the fridge to cool.  After chilling, this guac is going to be ready for your toast, chips, tacos, or even to eat by the spoonful.  This simple guacamole is a game changer.  Be a party hero and bring some superfood guacamole to your next get together!IMG_0431

 

 

Proud to be Colorado Proud!

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If you live in Colorado, you have seen the Colorado Proud stickers around the grocery  store.  There are lots of great products that proudly display this sticker on their packaging.  When you see this sticker, you can be assured that it was produced within the State of Colorado.  We are excited to announce that our micro-greens  are now certified Colorado Proud and will be showing off this colorful logo soon!

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“Better for you, better for Colorado” is their motto.   Colorado Proud is a program within
the Department of Agriculture that was developed in 1999. The goal is to make it easier for the consumer to locate Colorado Food and Agriculture products, as well as raise awareness of the benefits of shopping local.

Shopping Local is trending right now, and for good reason.  Shopping local supports local small businesses.  And in this case, it supports local farms.   When you spend your dollar locally, it creates a stronger local economy and fosters a closer community.   Since there is less transporting and shipping local goods, the carbon footprint of locally produced food and goods are much more sustainable for the environment.  Colorado Proud also wants to keep Colorado Unique, stating that when you shop local you get better and more persoanlized customer service.   And in todays day and age, with all of the food recalls from massive farms and production facitlities, its better than ever to “Know Your Farmer” and shop locally.   When you support a large farm, your support is unlikely to be noticed by that large business.  But when you support a small local farm, you’re helping pay their mortgage or send their kids to college.   Think of that impact on the local economy.

img_0193In order to qualify to be Colorado Proud Certified, the product must be grown, raised or processed within Colorado.  All fresh produce must be grown in Colorado and livestock must be raised in Colorado.  All value added items must be made in a commercial kitchen in Colorado and procucers are encouraged to use Colorado grown products as well.  This means that our new cottage foods items will not be adorning these lovely stickers…but you bet we will be having them all over our micro-greens!

This is a wonderful program that really helps spotlight our local producers, and they have the stats to back that up.  When the program was launched in ’99, only 59% of respondents recognized the CO Proud logo.  In a recent poll, that awareness rose to 72%!  Additionally, they note that 90% of consumers polled would purchase products from Colorado if the option was available!

I encourage you to check out the Colorado Proud website HERE.  You can search for Colorado Proud Certified companies like ours, find local farmers markets, check out the colorado produce calendar, and browse some popular recipes.  There are also links to find more about Colorado Agriculture, Colorado Forest Products, and local Agritourism opportunities.  You can even search for a local winery!  A great source for all things Colorado Proud!

New Compostable Packaging!

We are upping our packaging game! IMG_0269

Unfortunately, plastics are a necessity in the convenience based world we live in today.   Our packaging has always been recyclable, as well as made from recycled materials, but we found a way to lessen our impact even further.

A couple of weeks ago I came across a photo on instagram of a farm using some plant based packaging and I started on our hunt for something better for us to use.  What I found was amazing.  Not only were there plant based options but we found ones at World Centric that were 100% plant based.  They are also 100% compostable.  And even better then that…World Centric uses third party certification to verify all of their products!

First off, World Centric is a B-Corporation, which puts them in good company like Patagonia Outdoor Apparel.  According to http://www.bcorporation.net, there are only 2,655 companies, representing 150 industries across 60 countries. Working with the USDA Biopreferred Program, they certify that their products are produced with renewable plant materials.  The Biodegradable Product Institute is a non-profit that certifies that the product will meet the USDA requirements to actually compost.  In addition to their certifications, they also are a member of 1% For the Plant which means 1% of their annual sales are donated directly to an approved environmental or sustainable non-profit organization.  They are also a Green America Certified Business which certifies that their  business is used as a platform for positive social change.  And if that isn’t enough…they also donate a large portion of their pre-tax profit to many global grass roots program.

All of this information is listed on their webpage, which I fully encourage you to check out.   They have lots of information of how to be an informed consumer and why these kinds of products are necessary.  If you’re ordering products for your business, please look for yourself.   Their list of products are endless, the prices are competitive and everything ships fast and safe!

Check them out at worldcentric.com, but more specifically, check this link out that relates directly to becoming a more informed consumer. (World Centric – Tools for Conscious Living).

When you find good companies like this one, its worth sharing about them.   We are fully impressed thus far with our experience and are thankful that there are thoughtful companies like World Centric to support our small business.

 

My road to healing part 3: how to feel better

-Guest Blog by Dr. Ann Croghan, PT, DPT, CLC

How to feel better?

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Start small. Do what you can. Have compassion for yourself.

Identify one part of your food habit that you know you should change AND then change it.  For me: it was dairy. Giving up dairy helped me to realize that I was sick and that I could feel better.  Look up the requirements for how long you need to completely avoid that food to know if it is contributing.  Dairy is a complete avoidance for 2-4 weeks. If you mess up, you have to start over. AND you need to know where that food hides. The milk protein casein hides in many things.  Did you know there is such a thing as vegan wine? Or that some non dairy coffee creamers have dairy? Or they use dairy in sausage cassing?

For dairy, there are three main proteins: lactose (which everyone knows), casein, whey. Funny enough, lactose never made me feel sick. So don’t use that as your baseline.

People say to me: “BUT CHEESE? I love cheese!”.  My response? I didn’t love my back pain. I didn’t love my: fatigue, depression, stiffness, hip pain, knee pain, leg pain, asthma, ringing in my ears…… ALL things I didn’t know I could change. My life is so much better without those food choices. And if we continue to advocate for change in the food we eat, we will see more people get better. We will see more restaurants serving food that support healthy minds and bodies.

Ask your loved ones to support you. Staying away from dairy was easier at first because Matt kept it out of the house.

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Living without dairy is easy: there are plant milks, coconut oil, you can make cashews into different kinds of cheese/cream/spread, bananas make the perfect ice cream. All of these choices are cheeper too! Plus I don’t feel terrible anymore.

 

Living without wheat, corn, soy. Read labels. Make your own food. Buy some gluten free bread from Little Red Hen.  On a daily basis I make a choice to feel better. I would rather not eat for the day than have food that will make me sick. Because my body has what it needs to function, I don’t feel terribly hungry any more. I don’t have hangery moments, or hunger crashes, or times where I HAVE TO EAT!!!!!

Add in living, nutrient dense food. You have a lot to make up for. Bananas, blueberry smoothies, lemons, apples, cauliflower, broccoli, peas. Of course: Microgreens!!! Grow your own lettuce, veggies, lemons, herbs.  It’s easy to grow your food. Why take care of a small 4×4 grass space in your yard that serves no purpose? Make it a garden instead.

Support your local farmer.

Support your local restaurant that uses food from the local farmer and not just food from the food truck….. unless it’s The Valley Roots Food Hub.

Don’t let people get to you. We only have this one life. I want to live this life without: fatigue, pain, depression, ringing in my ears, ridges in my nails, sickness. I want to live this life with: energy and laughter.  And for the last few years, I have been doing just that.

Thank you to my wonderful husband Matt for his drive to bring nutrient dense food to his family, to his community, and to inspire other farmers/gardeners to do the same. It’s time to make a change.

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Our Microgreen Menu Entering 2018

We like to grow a wide variety of microgreens that have a wide range of flavors as well as nutrition profiles.  Some are spicy, while some are mild in flavor.   Some are crunchy and some are delicate in texture.  Some are easy to grow while others are difficult.   Most grow quickly while others can take much longer.   Many varieties we continue to grow weekly, while a few we have taken out of rotation all together.   Here is a list of our menu going into 2018.  Keep an eye out for individual varieties as well as mixes.

Radish Microgreens-
Daikon Radish are the first microgreens that we started with.  They are easy to grow and finish quickly.  We now supplement with China Rose, and Purple Radish for some additional color and crunch.   No matter the color, they all pack the full radish flavor into these lovely tall greens.   They are really perfect for your next salad or sandwich that you want a little spicy kick to.  They are a great source of Vitamin C along with many other vital vitamins and minerals.
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Mustard Microgreens-
We love the spicy flavor that these bring.  Any wasabi or horse-radish fans out there?  These extremely potent microgreens are another perfect match for any dish that needs a little added heat.   They will replace your hot sauce!  And since they can replace your hot sauce, they need to be a staple in your kitchen because they go good on everything!  Our favorite is adding them to a nice pasta dish with some colorful roasted veggies.
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Arugula Microgreens-
They have the full flavor that arugula is famous for and are so delicate you can hardly tell they there, if it weren’t for the flavor.  The perfect pair for a baked potato or added to pasta like parmesan cheese!  If your an arugula fan, these micros will be a game changer for you.   They are our lowest yielding crop as well as the most difficult to grow.  Due to this, its hit or miss if this one is available, but when it is it goes fast!
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Broccoli Microgreens-
If you need some additional nutrition of all kinds or you’re healing from an illness or disease, these should be your best friend.  We prefer broccoli Micros for their nutritional content and texture.  They are not as crunchy as radish, but not as delicate as Arugula.  Stack these high on hummus sandwhiches with some avocado and fresh tomato slices for a great lunch sandwich.  We started growing these following many reports of their nutritional punch and we can vouch for that.  Our family eats them daily, and if we don’t we feel the drag.  Great for morning, noon and night!  One small package of our greens is equal to the nutritional content of almost 2 lbs. of broccoli florets!
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Kale Microgreens-
Everyone knows of the superfood status that Kale has.  My problem with kale is that its tough to eat much of it because of the texture of full size kale.  I have even been told by people that Kale tastes “soapy”.  Well fear not!  Kale Microgreens are a perfect way to get more nutrition than even the full size kale.  Use these to top your tacos with these instead of the boring iceberg and you’ll never go back!  We also love these mixed along with broccoli, and red cabbage micros to make a great rainbow micro-green salad!
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Red Cabbage Microgreens-
The deep purple color of these popular greens are a show stopper and perfect for your next dinner party.  Your guests will enjoy the health benefits associated with that beauty!  These greens crush “bad” cholesterol and are being cheered for their nutritional potency by many recent studies.  Not to mention scientists are looking into the cancer fighting ability of all purple veggies!  These micros are so colorful that they will really stand out on your next dinner party or afternoon lunch!  Like Broccoli, these continue to be on our menu not only for the color and taste, but because they are true medicine.
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Purple Kohlrabi Microgreens-
Slightly more delicate than the Red Cabbage, but not lacking in flavor is Kohlrabi!  We grow this one for our daughter.  She has this on her plate with every meal.  It has been her favorite from day one….and she is 3!

Its versatile enough to have at breakfast and to pack away for your lunch on the trail.  They are a part of the mild mix trio that we sell and was the first purple crop that we produced.  It is still requested aside the Red Cabbage so we keep in in our main rotation!
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Cilantro Microgreens-
For the Cilantro lover out there, these are an experience to be had!  They should be a part of your next taco party or blended into your morning smoothie.  The greens are big cilantro flavor while the shell is tastes sharply of coriander spice!  This sweet green takes twice as long as any other green that we grow.  Nearly 2 weeks for germination alone!  But the wait is worth it.   Due to the constant demand, these have made their way into our weekly rotation in a limited quantity.
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Sunflower Shoots –
By far and away our most requested microgreen.   We have not found anyone that doesn’t like these crunchy snacks.  These are great to add to your next salad as it has a great crunch that will stand out amongst the mixed greens.  Our family favorite is adding them to peanut butter, honey, and banana sandwhiches.  They have a great fresh nutty taste that kiddos cannot stop snacking on.   What parent doesn’t love that?  The energy packed into these greens make them perfect to bring alongside your tail mix for a mid-hike snack!
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Pea Shoots – 
Rounding out our menu is the Pea Shoot.  These taste like a summer in the garden.   The tendrils as they are called are commonly used as an interesting garnishment, but is much more capable than that.  We started with Radish and Pea Shoots and still grow both!  We love these long and crunchy greens in wraps.   Their length and texture work perfectly in sushi and their pea flavor works well in any salad!  These hardy greens will last forever in your fridge as well.   We have reported them lasting 3-4 weeks after cutting!
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As you can see, we have a vast selection of flavors to choose from.   In addition to these, we also grow Wheat Grass, Micro-Leeks, Micro-Chives, Celery, Red Amaranth and many more that come and go throughout the year!  We love the variety that nature provides and love to hear feedback on your favorite variety.  Any varieties we arent growing that we should?  Let us know!   We love experimenting!

You can find our greens at Simple Foods Market in Salida, CO and Elephant Cloud Market in Crestone, CO.   Contact us direct for custom orders!  Happy New Year, and may 2018 be very green for your family!